Identity Theft Awareness and Prevention
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
Donít Become a Victim
Tips for ID Theft Prevention
- 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.
- 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
Order your credit report
at least annually to monitor activity on it.
The 3 main credit reporting agencies are:
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.
- 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.
- 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
- Do not include your
Social Security number on checks.
- 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.
- 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.