What is Identity Theft and how does it work?
Identity Theft is a serious crime and happens when a thief steals another person's identifying information (name, social security number, driver's license number, date of birth, home address, etc).
Your identity can be stolen in a number of ways such as theft of your mail, purse, wallet, or trash. It can occur from scam phone calls asking for personal information, eavesdropping, or looking over your shoulder while entering pin numbers or passwords. It also can include skimming information, by stealing credit/debit card numbers from the magnetic strip by using a special storage device when processing your card, and phishing when a thief pretends to be a financial institution or company and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information over your computer.
When this information is used without your knowledge, a thief will open new bank accounts in your name, apply for mortgages and credit cards, etc. with the mail diverted to a different address. It can cost you time, money, destroy your credit and good name.
Identity Fraud versus Identity Theft
Identity Fraud is usually limited to an isolated attempt to steal money from an existing account – such as a charge on a stolen card. If fraudulent transactions occur on your account, it does not automatically mean your identity was stolen. It may be an isolated incident of theft that can be quickly resolved.
Identity Theft is when a thief uses stolen personal information to open accounts or initiate several transactions in your name. This may cause financial loss or damaged credit.
What are Identity Theft signs?
- Unauthorized charges on your checking account or credit card statements
- Accounts not belonging to you on your credit report
- Calls from collection agencies asking why you have not paid a bill
- Calls or letters about purchases not made by you
- Calls from financial institutions regarding accounts you did not open
- Missing bills or statements that do not arrive as expected
How can Identity Theft be prevented?
Safeguard your information to deter identity thieves:
- Do not carry your Social Security card or unused credit cards in your wallet.
- Do not have your Social Security number or driver's license number printed on your checks.
- Do not give out personal information over the phone, internet, or by mail unless you initiated the call or know who you are dealing with. Contact the requestor and ask for verification.
- Shred documents with account numbers or other personal information before discarding, including credit card offers. Be careful with receipts.
- Watch for regular monthly bills that are not delivered, and remove mail promptly.
- Sign your new debit and credit cards promptly, and do not keep PIN numbers attached to your cards.
- Review your bank and billing statements regularly online, or through the mail, looking for charges you did not make.
- Protect your home computer, don't use obvious passwords, and keep your personal information in a secure place at home
Check your credit report at least once a year to identify accounts not opened by you. Credit reports contain your information, including what accounts you have and your bill paying history. You can get a free copy of your credit report each year from the three major credit reporting companies. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call (877) 322-8228, to order your free credit reports each year.
What Steps should be followed as an Identity Theft Victim?
STEP 1: Request a "Fraud Alert" on your credit report by contacting a credit reporting agency to report the identity theft. A call to one company is sufficient. This alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts.
STEP 2: Close your accounts at your financial institutions(s) and credit card companies. Contact the financial institution(s) or the companies where the information about you has been used and let them know you are a victim of identity theft. Keep good records of who you talk to, summaries of conversations and documentary evidence of the crime.
STEP 3: Contact your police department and file a report. Be sure to request a copy of the report to help you with creditors who may want proof of the crime.
STEP 4: Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission by calling (877) ID THEFT / (877) 438-4338 or at IdentityTheft.gov. This site is the federal government’s one-stop resource for identity theft victims. The site provides streamlined checklists and sample letters to guide you through the recovery process.
Your MasterCard debit card has a benefit which includes Identity Theft Resolution Services. To learn more about this valuable benefit, please call 1-800-MC-ASSIST (1-800-622-7747). To request a printed Guide to Benefits, call 419-238-1463. You can also visit www.mastercard.com/debitstandard-gtb for a full description of the benefits and how to use them.