Protecting Your Identity
Identity theft — unlawful use of your name, social security number, or credit — is on the rise. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that about 9 million Americans have their identities stolen every year. Identity thieves employ both low-tech methods and technologically advanced schemes to steal personal information. The following tips can help prevent a criminal from ruining your credit, fleecing your accounts, or even breaking the law in your name.
Identity Theft Prevention
- Make sure to monitor your credit history in order to
catch any lines of credit, accounts, or purchases that you did not authorize. By law, each of the three major credit agencies must provide you with one free credit statement per year; contact annualcreditreport.com
for instructions on how to obtain your credit reports.
- Don't put off balancing your checkbook — review your checking, savings, and credit accounts often to catch unfamiliar purchases. Also, update any outdated information, such as names, addresses, or phone numbers on your accounts.
- Lock your mailbox and receive your incoming mail through a slot. When traveling, ask the post office to hold all your mail. Drop off your payments directly into a USPS mailbox. This prevents thieves from gathering your personal information from your bills, bank statements, and preapproved credit card applications.
- Avoid carrying your Social Security card in your wallet and only take the debit and credit cards that you need with you. Keep your auto insurance and registration locked in your car rather than in your wallet.
- At home, store your birth certificate, passport, tax returns, and other identifying forms in a safe; burglars can break in and use these to cause even more financial damage.
- Shred or cut up old bank statements and credit card applications before discarding them. Better yet, call the credit reporting industry (888-5OPT-OUT) to stop unsolicited credit card applications from being mailed to your home.
- Know your online passwords by memory and change them regularly*. Be aware of potential e-mail scams that ask for personal information. When accessing your account information online, be sure to use a secure Wi-Fi connection.
- Consider using identity theft insurance and credit monitoring, which credit card companies usually offer for a fee.
- Follow your security service provider on Facebook and Twitter and watch for website updates — the largest security companies often provide up-to-date personal protection tips.
What to Do if Your Identity is Stolen
Although prosecution of identity theft can be difficult, the actions below can clarify the process for creditors and accelerate the reestablishment of your good name.
- If you notice unauthorized activity on your credit report, immediately file a claim with the Federal Trade
Commission and then report the fraud to your local police department. Keep a record of all communication with law enforcement and creditors, such as the name of the agency, time and date of phone calls, and e-mail trails.
- As soon as you discover fraudulent use of your bank account, close the account or request that the account number be changed. Ask the bank if they can enact a check verification service, which alerts retailers not to recognize further checks from the violated account.
- After filing an initial fraud report, you can file a second, semi-permanent one that stands for seven years. This report requires any credit agency to contact you personally before any new account is established in your name.
* View USA’s Securing Knowledge tips on creating and maintaining strong passwords...
About U.S. Security Associates
U.S. Security Associates (USA) is one of North America's largest security companies, with 160 locally-responsive offices providing premier national security services and global consulting and investigations to customers in a range of industries. Recognized for world class customer service, leading-edge technology, and an enterprise approach to risk management, USA offers optimized security solutions to meet specific customer needs. USA is committed to building quality security and risk management programs that are Safe. Secure. Friendly.® The Securing Knowledge series is part of the extensive and growing library of reference and training tools that contribute to USA's award-winning customer service and benchmark security programs. USA's investment in training and development resources is reflected not only by BEST Awards from the American Society for Training & Development, consistent ranking on the Training magazine Top 125, and technology-driven quality management system, but also by the company's leadership team, security officers, and service excellence on a daily basis.