What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is the illegal use of another's personal data, such as name, address, birth date, and Social Security number. The National Council on Identity Theft Protection reports that losses from identity theft cost Americans $5.8 billion in 2021. The Federal Trade Commission reports they received 5.7 million total fraud and identity theft reports in 2021, of which 1.4 million were consumer identity theft cases.
How Does it Happen?
Studies show that personal information often used in identity fraud scams has been stolen from carelessly handled paper sources. A casually discarded receipt, a personal document or checkbook kept in your desk drawer, or applications casually stored can result in fraud.
Fraud can also occur when merchants do not have adequate controls in place to protect information they collect from you for a transaction. This includes debit or credit card data, personal information on your checks, and personal information you provide when applying for a store discount or membership card.
Friends, family members, and neighbors are implicated in approximately half of the fraud cases, resulting in losses nearly seven times more than losses from online fraud.
Technology-based scams are a very real threat; however, while your attention is focused on computer firewalls and security updates, don't ignore the threats that come from dumpster diving, mail theft, checkbooks left unattended, sensitive documents left in an unlocked drawer, or data skimmed from a diner's credit card.
Frauds That Can Result
1. Account takeover - when a fraudster uses your credit or debit card account information to buy goods and services.
2. Application fraud - what some experts call "true ID theft." The thief uses stolen identifying information to open new accounts using a false address, and possibly even obtaining false ID, such as a driver's license, in your name.
3. Electronic crime - mostly unauthorized home banking transactions as the result of the following:
- Phishing emails: fake e-mails luring you to a spoofed website to collect personal information
- Spoofing: bogus "lookalike" websites, which ask you to provide personal information
- Pharming: redirecting web traffic to a bogus site
4. Trojan key loggers – programs loaded without the computer user's knowledge that record keystrokes from online sessions.
Identity Theft Resources
- On Guard Online
- Identity Theft Resource Center
- Anti-Phishing Working Group
- National Council on Identity Theft Protection
- Federal Trade Commission
Simple Steps to Protect Yourself from Fraud
- Review credit reports annually. Order your free annual credit reports at www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call (877) 322-8228 toll-free.
- Call to Opt Out of pre-screen credit offers from all 3 credit bureaus. This automated line is quick, easy, and stops credit bureaus from selling your information. You will need to provide your Social Security number.
- Cut down on direct mail. Go to the Direct Mail Association's Mail Preference Service to opt out.
- Remove yourself from mortgage refinancing and home equity loan offers by calling the Acxiom U.S. Consumer Hotline at (877) 774-2094 or by writing to DataQuick, Attn: Opt-Out Dept., 9620 Towne Center Drive, San Diego, CA 92121.
- Review your accounts online regularly. People who monitor their financial accounts and transactions online lose significantly less per fraud incident than those who rely on paper statements.
- Receive financial statement electronically. Electronic statements are an effective way to prevent mail fraud. Mail theft occurs any time of the year, but most frequently from January to March when your annual statements and tax documents are arriving.
- Protect paper documents. Shred confidential documents, receipts and credit offers before discarding.
- Review account statements promptly.
- Use secure mailboxes to send and receive mail.
- When you complete an application for a merchant discount card or similar item, ask what security measures are in place to protect your personal information and how your application will be disposed of when it is no longer needed.
- Use caution when asked for personal information over the Internet
- Don't provide personal information by phone unless you initiated the call.
- Be aware of current scam tactics such as phishing and spoofing.
- Use firewall protection on your computer.
- Download the latest software updates.
- Install antivirus and antispyware programs on your computer.
If you are a victim of identity theft, these are just some of the steps you may want to consider.
- Notify Northern Skies FCU and any other institutions where you have accounts so those accounts can be protected.
- Immediately report stolen credit, debit, and ATM cards to the card issuers. Your liability under federal law for unauthorized use of your ATM or debit card, or for fraudulent transfers, depends on how quickly you report the loss.
- Notify the DMV if your driver's license has been stolen.
- Place fraud alerts with credit bureaus.
- Check credit reports. You are entitled to a free report once a fraud alert is filed.
- File a request to have fraudulent information removed.
- Place a fraud alert with the Social Security Administration.
- Notify the postal inspector if the identity theft is the result of mail fraud. Your local post office can direct you.
- Review accounts and use standard affidavits to report disputes (available from FTC - link below).
- Close accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- File a police report and keep a copy.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov
- Keep a log of all the steps you take; include the names, titles, phone numbers and extensions of people you speak to.
Who to Contact
Experian Credit Reporting Bureau
PO Box 2002
Allen Texas 75013
TransUnion Credit Reporting Bureau
PO Box 2000
Chester PA, 19022-2000
Equifax Credit Reporting Agency
PO Box 740256
Atlanta, Georgia 30374