Preventing Identity Theft
Anyone can be a victim!
What is Identity Theft?
Identity Theft as defined by the U.S. Postal Service:
Identity theft involves acquiring key pieces of someone's identifying information, such as:
- Date of birth
- Social security number
- Mother's maiden name
In order to impersonate them.
This information enables the identity thief to commit numerous forms of fraud that include, but are not limited to:
- Taking over a victim's financial accounts
- Opening new bank account
- Purchasing automobiles
- Applying for loans, credit cards and social security benefits
- Renting apartments and establishing services with utilities and phone companies
How to Prevent Identity Theft
- Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery. Outgoing mail should be deposited at the post office or collection mailbox.
- Never give personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call. Protect personal information; release only if absolutely necessary.
- Shred all pre-approved credit card applications, receipts, bills and any other financial information.
- Empty your wallet of extra credit cards and IDs. Cancel the cards you don't need.
- Order your credit report from the three credit bureaus once a year (see below). Check for fraudulent activity and close accounts that are not needed.
- Never leave receipts anywhere! Many list your credit card or bank account numbers. If you don't need it, destroy it.
- Memorize your social security number, PIN numbers and passwords. Do not record them on any cards or on anything in your wallet or purse.
- Credit Cards - sign them as soon as you get them. Save all receipts and match them with your monthly bills.
- Be aware of when bills are expected. If they do not arrive, contact your financial institution. Notify your credit card companies and banks in advance of any change of address or phone number.
- In Massachusetts, change your driver's license number to a random "S" number.
- If an institution with whom you are affiliated uses your Social Security number as an identification number (i.e. health insurance cards, college IDs), question why this is necessary and have it changed if possible.
- Report all lost or stolen credit cards immediately.
- Closely monitor the mail if you applied for a credit card or if a credit card is expiring. If you do not receive your new or replacement card, notify the credit card issuer immediately.
- Beware of mail, telephone, email or fax solicitations disguised as promotions.
- When online, make sure to use secure websites when entering credit card information. Most secure locations provide a "https" address.
Business records and accounts are as important as personal papers. In addition, you are entrusted with employee and customer information that can be used in credit card fraud.
Records, files and computer data must be protected from unauthorized access. Any person (including family members) who is allowed access to this information must be subject to having their work inspected and/or audited.
It is best to keep this information separate and secure if not needed to conduct business.
How to Recover From Identity Theft
The first steps are the most important:
If you are the victim of a recent theft: Notify the Police.
Contact the three credit bureaus and ask to have a "Fraud Alert/Victim Impact" statement placed in your credit file. This will require creditors to call before opening a new account.
If you are questioning the validity of a business in Massachusetts then you can contact the Massachusetts Attorney Generals Office.
Visit our Resource Directory to gain info on the three Credit Bureaus.
Massachusetts's law entitles you to one free credit report per year. The procedures for each company are very similar.
Telephone reports are directed to their fraud units—company representatives will assist you with reporting credit fraud or identity theft. The websites also provide excellent information.