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Identity Theft

ONE OF THE FASTEST GROWING TYPES OF FINANCIAL FRAUD

PlantersFIRST suggests taking these steps to protect yourself:

  • Order and review your FREE annual credit reports.
  • Always read and verify your statements and bills.
  • DO NOT discard items containing personal information; shred instead.
  • Never expose your social security number.
  • Do not enter sensitive information on public computers.
  • Contact your post office if your statements or bills are more than 2 weeks late; your mail may be going elsewhere.

If you are a victim of identity theft:

  • Notify your financial institution.
  • Notify the fraud units of the credit bureaus.
  • Notify your postal inspector.

It is a felony in Georgia for someone to steal another person’s identity, yet the crime happens every day.

Here are some ways identity thieves work.  They…

  • Steal your wallet or purse
  • Intercept bills from your mailbox
  • Change your mailing address without your knowing it
  • Rummage through your trash
  • Call you on the phone pretending to be from a bank or other credit grantor
  • Steal records from your employer
  • Break into your home
  • Find unsecured internet sites containing your personal information
  • Corrupt insiders to copy your information from secure files

When they steal your information, they can…

  • Apply for a loan using your name
  • Use their address as if it were yours to get billing statements
  • Buy merchandise using your credit card
  • Rent an apartment
  • Lease a car
  • Get phone and other utility service
  • Buy a house
  • File bankruptcy in your name
  • Get medical insurance

Avoid becoming a Victim

There are many simple steps you can take to protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity thieves.

  • Regularly check your bank and billing statements; if you see something you don’t understand, call and inquire.
  • Be careful not to carry personal information in your wallet or purse such as your social security card, bank and credit card numbers with passwords and PINs.
  • If you did not initiate the call, do not give out personal information over the phone.
  • Leave your social security and driver’s license numbers off your checks.
  • Make sure your driver’s license number is not the same as your social security number.
  • Call your creditor if you haven’t received a bill you were expecting.
  • Use the post office or postal boxes for outgoing mail.
  • Shred or otherwise dispose of receipts and other paperwork that contains any personal identifying information.
  • Regularly order a copy of your credit report to check for unusual items.
  • Destroy pre-approved credit card applications if you aren’t going to take advantage of them.

How can I prevent the fraud?

Georgia law lets you get a free copy of your credit report twice a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.  To order a copy of your credit report, contact:

    Equifax
    800-685-1111
    www.equifax.com

    Experian
    888-397-3742
    www.experian.com

    TransUnion
    800-888-4213
    www.transunion.com

To remove your name from most marketing lists, contact the Direct Marketing Association:

    DMA Mail Preference Service
    P.O. Box 9088
    Farmingdale, NY  11735-9008
    

Help for Victims

The Federal Trade Commission reports that last year almost 3,000 Georgians were victimized by these criminals.  If you are a victim, take these steps:

  1. Contact each of the credit reporting agencies to request a fraud alert be placed in your credit file.
     - Equifax, P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, Ga.  30374-0250, (800) 525-6285 or www.equifax.com
     - Experian, P.O. Box 1017, Allen, Texas 75013, (888) 397-3742 or www.experian.com
     - TransUnion, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, Calif.  92634, (800) 680-7289 or www.transunion.com
  2. Contact your local police or sheriff’s department and make a report.  Be sure to record the report number.
  3. Notify your bank and other credit grantors.
  4. Contact government agencies:  The Federal Trade Commission is the national clearing house for identity theft information:  (877) 488-4338 
  5.   Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs:  
      (404) 651-8600 or
      (800) 869-1123
      www.ganet.org/gaoca

Identity Theft is reportedly the fastest growing consumer crime in the nation.  Each year thousands of our citizens fall victim to identity thieves.

Everyday citizens to celebrities have had their identities stolen.  Even businesses can become victims and Georgia is one of the few states that provide legal protection for both individuals and businesses.

If you suspect you’ve become a victim, take charge and take action.  The longer you avoid the problem, the worse it will become.

Call on your local banker to help get you through the maze of steps you must take to restore your good name.

Let us help…we’re all in this together.

Do You Make These 6 Mistakes To Help Your Identity Thief?

#1 You expose your social security number.


Your social security number is the pot of gold for your identity thief.  You make it easy for him or her by:

  • Carrying your SSN in your wallet/purse.
  • Writing it on checks.
  • Writing it on forms just because the blank line is there.
  • Letting your educational institution or workplace use it as an ID.

#2 You are careless with your mail.

Your thief loves your mail and you provide easy access for him or her.

  •  You have an unlockable mailbox and raise the red flag to let your thief know you’re ready to share.
  • You don’t notice when there is an unusual break in mail service.
  • You mail your sensitive information in your local mailbox instead of taking it to the post office.
  • You forget to submit a change of address when you move.
  • You still receive pre-approved credit card offers because you have not opted out at 1-888-5OPTOUT or www.optoutprescreen.com.

#3 You don’t secure sensitive information.

Many times the identity thief knows his or her victims and has easy access to sensitive data.

  • Visitors to your home are likely to see sensitive mail, forms, etc. lying out in open view.
  • You keep your tax returns and financial spreadsheets on your computer without password protection.
  • You leave pay stubs and other interesting information in the front seat of your car.
  • You don’t own a cross-cut shredder.
  • You put sensitive data in your garage.

#4 You don’t check your credit reports.

Monitoring your credit report is your best opportunity to detect identity theft.

  • You don’t order your free annual credit reports.
  • You don’t thoroughly review all credit report entries.
  • You don’t try to correct false entries and you convince yourself that it’s probably just a typo.

#5 You don’t scrutinize your bills and bank statements.

Many people use their credit cards for daily purchases.  Thieves may charge small amounts hoping you don’t notice.

  • You don’t verify every entry on your credit card and bank statements.
  • You don’t realize when your statement doesn’t arrive on time.

#6 You enter sensitive information on public computers.

Public computers are convenient, but it’s no place to enter sensitive information.  You don’t know who uses the computer before or after you.  Who’s watching your entries?

  • You check your bank account balance.
  • You logon to web sites and enter your passwords.
  • You leave the auto-complete feature enabled so the next person has a possibility of reviewing your entries.
  • You accept the “save my information for next time” prompts.

Conclusion

This information is brought to you from the real Danny Lents at www.IdTheftAwareness.com.  Knowledge, awareness, and detection are key elements in the fight against identity theft.  Please share this information with people you care about.

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