In 2009, identity theft affected
an estimated 11.1 million Americans, an increase of 37 percent since 2007.*
This has resulted in the loss of nearly $54 billion.* In response to this
alarming trend, Better Business Bureau serving Eastern North Carolina (bbb.org) offers ten ways consumers can fight
Shred all important financial documents.
sure you cross-shred all documents that may have any personal information on them. Consumers should destroy anything with credit
card or bank account numbers, and make sure thieves find no trace of social
security numbers in their trashcans. Shredding receipts for credit or ATM card
transactions is also a good precaution to take. Consumers can also go a step
further and shred all mail that has their name and address on it.
bills from a secured mailbox.
it may be convenient to simply place mail in a home mailbox, that may unintentionally
alert thieves to easy access of bank or credit account numbers. Instead, drop
mail off at the post office where it will be safely locked inside a mailbox
before pickup. Consumers may also want to consider getting a lock for their mailbox
to protect all incoming bills from identity thieves. Renting a P.O. Box is
another good option to deter thieves.
Reduce your junk mail and unsolicited credit card offers.
(or significantly reducing) the amount of junk mail consumers receive could
wind up saving them from major heartache and frustration. Consumers can visit
the Consumer Credit Reporting Companies’ opt out website at: http://www.optoutprescreen.com or
call them at 888.567.8688.
Don't carry your social security number with you, and don’t use it as a user ID
your social security number is the key that could single handedly unlock
numerous doors for identity thieves, Consumers should protect this number more
than anything else. So, memorize it and then lock the original card away in a
safe place. Don’t make copies of it, and don't give the number out unless it is
absolutely necessary. Before giving it out, make sure to ask the institution
Always know where your credit card is—even in restaurants and retail stores.
not having to carry cash is convenient, using a credit card in venues where you
cannot always see the person running the card might be putting consumers at
risk. Some unscrupulous waiters use skimming to process payments, and identity
thieves sometimes sit in parking lots trying to access financial information
from restaurants and stores that use wireless systems. If possible, keep the
card within your line of sight. When
that isn’t possible, you may want to consider paying with cash.
if your credit card company offers any free safety features for online
many online retail outlets promise "secure" shopping on their sites,
you can never be too safe. Some financial institutions offer built in features
to protect consumers and their money from becoming vulnerable. For instance,
Bank of America offers the free "Shop Safe" feature, which allows
credit account holders to log on and receive a temporary account number (good
for one online transaction) every time they shop. That way, if an account
number is ever stolen from the vendor it's a dead number and the actual bank
account won't be charged.
Monitor credit card bills and bank statements carefully each month.
Read monthly credit card
statements thoroughly to ensure accuracy of the amounts spent and the merchant,
as well as to detect possible identity theft. Any unfamiliar purchases should be
brought to the attention of the credit card company quickly if there is a
belief that the card has been the subject of misuse. Make
sure to pay special attention to bills and statements that come just after a
vacation, as account information is more easily stolen when people travel.
your free credit report each year.
thieves specialize in stealing personal information and opening new credit
accounts instead of simply making fraudulent charges to an existing account. As
a result, it is extremely important that consumers monitor their credit report.
To obtain a free credit report, simply visit www.annualcreditreport.com. (Consumers
can receive one report each year from each of the major credit agencies:
Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). BBB recommends consumers request one credit
report from one agency every four months, to monitor their credit report
throughout the year.
strong passwords and change them often.
order to protect yourself, make sure that your passwords and pin codes for all
financial institutions aren't obvious to someone who may know you. Birthdays,
anniversaries and nicknames, although easy to remember, aren't very strong. If
you must write your passwords and pin codes down, don’t leave them in your desk
at work. If possible, try not to use the same passwords and pin codes for all
accounts and change them every three months for an extra measure of security.
Beware of online "friends" who may really be identity thieves in
chat rooms, online dating sites and teen-friendly sites like Facebook or
MySpace might be making families more vulnerable to identity theft than they
think. Educate children about identity theft so they don’t unintentionally pass
along personal information to someone who may be posing as a friend. Also, regularly
check your children's profile pages to make sure addresses and phone numbers
aren’t being released to the public.
Identity Theft Happens to You
become a victim of identity theft, make sure to contact local police, all of
your financial institutions and all three credit agencies right away. (Equifax:
www.equifax.com; TransUnion: www.tuc.com; and Experian: www.experian.com) Consumers may also want
to consider putting a security freeze on their credit report to prevent anyone
running credit without first notifying the consumer.
“The amount of time, money, and energy to repair
personal and financial records altered by identity theft can be staggering,”
says Beverly Baskin, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Eastern
North Carolina. “Taking some simple steps in advance can lower the risk of
becoming a victim.”
To further the fight against identity theft, BBB is hosting Secure Your ID Day
on October 23, 2010. The local shredding event will be held from 8:00 a.m. to
12:30 p.m. in the parking lot of Coastal Federal Credit Union, located off Wake Forest Road at
1000 St. Albans Drive,
Raleigh, NC 27609.
Participants are encouraged to bring up to three boxes or bags of documents
that have been removed from binders. At the event, BBB and other partner
organizations will provide tips and resources to help consumers protect their
identity. Event information is available at www.easternnc.bbb.org/secure-your-id.
* Statistics according to a 2010
Javelin Strategy and Research study.