Identity Theft Awareness and Prevention

 

            Identity theft is a growing problem in New Jersey, as it is in the United States in general.  While banks and credit card companies bear much of the financial burdens associated with this type of crime, individual victims will spend an average of $1,300 or more and 175 hours attempting to clear their credit reports after the fact.  Identity theft and bank/credit card fraud are creating increasing demands on your police department, and very often could be prevented.

            Most of the identity theft in our town results from thefts of credit cards, identification cards and wallets containing these items.  Criminals assume the victimís identity and open new, fraudulent credit accounts.  Frequently, thieves will steal these items from the purses of inattentive shoppers, leaving cash and some other cards behind to delay discovery of the theft.  Awareness of the threat is vital. 

 

Donít Become a Victim

Tips for ID Theft Prevention

 

  1. Protect your Social Security number.  Your Social Security number is the number one target of criminals, as it is a key piece of information required to access your credit report and bank accounts.  Do not carry your Social Security card with you; instead, memorize the number and store the card in a safe place.  Be aware of the fact that many other cards you may carry, especially health insurance or Medicare cards will often bear your Social Security number.  Carry only the card(s) you intend to use that day, and leave the rest at home.  Copy the information from your health insurance cards on a separate piece of paper (company name and phone number, your group number, policy number if it is not your Social Security number), less your Social Security number, and carry that with you in lieu of your insurance cards.  If you are caught in a medical emergency, your membership in an insurance plan is easy for a healthcare practitioner to verify by phone. 

 

  1. Purchase a CROSS-CUT document shredder and USE IT.  Old bank and credit card statements, credit card offers, and anything else containing personal information (again, health insurance documents often refer to your Social Security number) should be shredded before discarding.  Cut up old credit cards into small pieces; avoid placing all the pieces in a single garbage receptacle Ė criminals will take the time to reassemble cut up cards and documents shredded by single-directional shredders in order to obtain your account numbers.

 

  1. Order your credit report at least annually to monitor activity on it.  The 3 main credit reporting agencies are:
     

Experian

Equifax

Transunion

When you contact these agencies for a copy of your credit report, also ask them to remove your name from any marketing lists on which they may have your name.  This will reduce the number of pre-approved credit offers you will be sent in the mail, each an opportunity for a criminal to steal your identity and credit.

 

  1. Prepare a list of everything you carry in your wallet on a regular basis.  Photocopy any identifying cards, front and back, that you might lose should your wallet or purse be stolen or lost.

 

  1. Donít mail payments and checks from your home mailbox.  They are easy targets for criminals who will have access to account numbers, as well as to checks that can be chemically changed.  Instead, take the time to mail your bills out from a US post office mailbox.

 

  1. Do not include your Social Security number on checks.

 

  1. Pay close attention to your bank and credit card statements for inaccuracies and possible fraudulent use.  Cancel old and unused credit accounts.  Simply cutting up a credit card does not cancel the account; it remains open until you cancel it.

 

  1. Never provide your Social Security number, date of birth or other personally identifying information over the telephone or internet unless you trust the company with which you are doing business.  If you receive an email or telephone inquiry requesting you to verify your personal identifying information, ask the requesting company to read you what they have on file and you will confirm or reject it.  Many internet scams involve convincing web page clones, which can be difficult to detect from the real thing.  Contact the company at the customer service number on your last monthís statement to verify any contact requests.

Home