Animal Tips for Identity Theft
When I did the article titled, “Animal Tips for Identity Theft”, it was done in a humorous mode and as kind of a spoof. A series of photographs illustrating a group of look-alike different cute animals who had stolen each other’s identity, it was a spoof against serious identity theft. But so many people were looking for some actual facts on animal identity theft that I researched the subject a little more in detail. Even though our website prefers to stay within a positive frame of mind—I guess here we are–so stay around and check out the cute little “identity thefts”. Then head out to the “Ugliness of Animal Identity Theft” for some heavy hard-core facts!
Identity Theft Tip #1
Watch for “shoulder-surfers” standing directly behind you at ATMs, check-out stands, computers, phone booths, or anything that involves passwords or personal information.
Identity Theft Tip #2
Rather than signing the backs of your credit card receipts, you can write “See Photo ID” for those which require any photo ID verification.
Identity Theft Tip #3
Watch for thieves who may go through your trash. One of the ways that “would-be identity thieves” acquire stolen personal information is through dumpster-diving. Make sure you shred anything that has to do with bills, credit card statements, old credit cards, ATM receipts, medical statements, or even junk-mail solicitations for credit cards and mortgages.
Identity Theft Tip #4
If you have a computer system, recordable CD or DVD, hard drive, or backup tape for sale or to trade, make sure the data is completely destroyed with a product such as ShredXP . There are also specific shredders for media available, and you should physically break or shatter the actual CD or DVD before disposing of it.
Identity Theft Tip #5
Be careful of your personal or business checking account or credit card statements. Check for legitimate entries that you have made, correcting immediately any false records to quickly identify any suspicious activity you did not make. Try to stay on top of things!
Identity Theft Tip #6
Pay your bills or personal statements directly at the post office or at an official U.S. Postal Service drop box, instead of leaving a bill with a check in the family mail box out in the middle of nowhere.
Checks left for thieves to find in your mail box provide them with routing numbers, account numbers, phone numbers, financial information or complete banking information. Also, make sure you check your mail immediately instead of leaving the mail in the mail box for several days.
Identity Theft Tip #7
Never have your drivers license number or social security number personally imprinted on your checks with identity theft so prevalent today. If a check becomes stolen, you have handed the thief the keys to who you are. Another hint, in the printed name space of your check instead of printing your full name, have your name listed with a first name initial with the last full name, such as N. L. Young.
Identity Theft Tip #8
Even though it is a lot of trouble, analyze your credit report on an annual basis. There are free reports available with free copies once a year. The main three reporting companies who have joined forces are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion into one web site, annualcreditreport.com, is currently available for the Western and Mid-Western states, with the Southern and Eastern states being rolled out later this year. It is easier than trying to dig yourself out of debt for bills you never made.
Identity Theft Tip #9
Probably the most important piece of information on you is your social security number and your driver’s license. And if a thief gains access to either number or even the last four digits of your social security along with your full name and address, your identity will be lost in a heart beat. Also, make sure you do not give out either number across the telephone or on the computer if possible.
Identity Theft Tip #10
Unless you know the Internet company and it is a major national company, like H&R Block or Amazon, it is wise not to give out any personal information over the web. Thievery and hackers have a field day on a minute-by-minute basis with millions of citizens online, regardless whether the company boasts of being secure or not.
Identity Theft Tip #11
This may appear rather cumbersome, but try to save all emails involved in business dealings on every level for at least five years. Keep a record of all email conversations with name, agency, phone number, date, and time. If on the phone, make recordings from a recorder if one is available.
Identity Theft Tip #12
Never mail originals. Always send out copies, notarized if necessary, when paying bills or handling correspondence. Also, use certified mail, return receipt requested, so that you have a record of who received your mail and when. Otherwise, it is your word against theirs!
Identity Theft Tip #13
Organize a meeting in your school, community center, senior citizen’s center, church, or synagogue and invite a police officer to come and tell people about the identity theft problem and what they can do to prevent the crime. Help people become aware and know what to watch for.
Identity Theft Tip #14
If someone is illegally using your bank account, close the account right away and ask your bank to notify its check verification service. The service will notify retailers not to honor checks written on this account. In most cases, the bank is responsible for any losses. To find out whether someone is passing bad checks in your name, call the Shared Check Authorization Network at 800-262-7771.
If you think someone has opened a new checking account in your name, you can ask for a free copy of your consumer report from Chex Systems (800-428-9623, Consumer Debit Resource), the consumer reporting service used by many banks. If your bank doesn’t use Chex Systems, ask for the name and number of the consumer reporting service it uses.
Identity Theft Tip #15
As soon as you can, contact your local police or sheriff’s department. The police should take your report and give you a copy, or at least the number of the report. You should also consider reporting the crime to your state law enforcement, since many states have recently toughened their laws against identity theft. You will need a police report to pursue your case with creditors who have been victimized in your name. You may also want to contact the office of your state attorney general for consumer fraud information. For a list of state attorneys general, go to www.naag.org.
Be sure to give the police copies of all the documents that support your claim. You may want to provide them with a notarized copy of the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Affidavit, available from www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft//.
Because an identity is frequently stolen in one place and used in another, you may also have to contact the police in the place where the crime took place. Your local law enforcement or the creditors affected can tell you if this is the case.
“Thanks, Deb…for the email photographs handed down the Internet pike!”
REMEMBER…STAY ALERT AT ALL TIMES!