ALABAMA A&M and AUBURN UNIVERSITIES
For more information,
contact Donna Reynolds, Extension Assistant Editor
THIS IS THE FIRST IN A SERIES OF TWO STORIES ON THEFT OF IDENTITY. THE SECOND STORY CAN BE FOUND HERE.
DON'T BECOME A VICTIM OF IDENTITY THEFT
AUBURN, Dec. 11---Theft of identity (TOI) fraud is on the
rise. Often the first notice consumers get that someone has
fraudulently assumed their identity is a call from a collection
agency demanding payment on an overdue credit account which they
never opened. Or, when their monthly billing statements don't
arrive in the mail and they find the address on their account has
been changed by an identity thief.
Most TOI victims never learn how the identity thieves
accessed their personal information. The following recom-
mendations won't prevent fraud entirely, but consumers can take
these preventative steps to close some avenues to TOI.
Protecting personal information. Always question the
information gathering and handling practices of merchants,
creditors, government agencies, employers, educational
institutions and others. Ask, do they really need this
information for a valid purpose?
Credit card account numbers. Don't write account numbers
on checks, outside of envelopes and avoid giving account numbers
over the phone to companies you are unfamiliar with, especially
when you did not initiate the call.
Social security numbers. Ask to have an alternative
number where social security numbers are used for identification
by schools, employers, or other institutions. Resist writing
your social security number on checks where possible. Keep tax
records and other financial documents in a secure place, and
destroy or delete social security numbers from any documents
before throwing them away.
Address and phone numbers. Don't give or write your name
and address in conjunction with a credit card sale. You
may want to have your name deleted from marketers' lists by
writing to Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service
(P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735) and Telephone Preference
Service (P.O. Box 9015, Farmingdale, NY 11735).
Other common identifying information. Consider using
other security passwords for financial accounts rather than
common identifiers such as mother's maiden name and birth date;
shred canceled checks before throwing away.
Monitor credit reports. Obtain a copy of your credit
report on a regular basis to monitor for changed address and
fraudulent account information.
Monitoring billing statements. Check your billing
statements each month for fraudulent charges and report
immediately. If you do not receive your statement on time, it may
be that a fraudulent change of address was sent to the creditor
or the post office. Call the creditor first and then the post
office to see if a change of address has been filed in your name.
Pre-approved credit card offers. Always tear up pre-
approved credit card applications before throwing them away.
Credit card solicitations are generated from "pre-screened lists"
of credit reports provided by credit bureaus. If you do not want
to receive these offers, contact each of the three major credit
bureaus to remove your name from pre-screened lists: Experian:
800-682-7654; Equifax: 800-685-1111; TransUnion: 800-916-8800.
The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is an organization
dedicated to assisting consumers with a wide range of privacy
issues. For their information fact sheets call (619) 298-3396 or
access via the Internet.
SOURCE: DR. FRED WADDELL, Extension resource management specialist,
Alabama Cooperative Extension System (334) 844-3244.