Guest post by Jilenne Gunther, MSW, JD, Utah Division of Aging & Adult Services
Some thieves want to steal your identity to profit from it. This is a serious crime that can destroy your credit and cost you time and money.
Identity thieves will try anything to get your personal information. They will steal your wallet, go through your trash and hack into your computer. Be protective of your personal information and use caution before giving it out. Here are some tips to keep your information safe:
— Don’t carry your Social Security card, passport or birth certificate with you unless absolutely necessary.
— Very few people and organizations other than your employer, bank, Medicare, IRS, Medicaid, Motor Vehicle Department, brokerage and the Social Security Administration (SSA) need your SSN.
— If a company asks for your SSN, decline to provide it. Ask if you can give an alternative form of identification.
— Buy a shredder. Shred any paper that contains personal information, including receipts, bank statements, checks and credit card offers.
— Protect your computer. Install anti-spyware and firewall software on your computer to prevent unauthorized access to your computer.
— Beware of any email that looks like it’s from a legitimate company but states that your account has been compromised and you need to go to the link provided in the email. This is called phishing. The email is not from that company, but a scam. The link in the email takes you to a similar but fake website where you are asked to put in your personal information. Forward any phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are victim of identity theft you should:
File a Police Report – This will prove to creditors that you are a victim of identity theft.
Contact the Major Consumer Credit Reporting Companies – Ask that a fraud alert be placed on your credit report. This requires companies to call you before they extend credit under your name and SSN.
Close Tampered Accounts – Call the places where fraudulent accounts were tampered with or opened. Talk to someone in the fraud or security department. Ask them to close the account. Follow up with a written letter, and include supporting documents. Ask for a letter confirming that the account was closed and the debts were discharged.
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the Utah Attorney General’s Office.