Identity Theft A Growing Business

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1 Identity Theft A Growing Business You retrieve your mail and find yet another application for a pre-approved credit card application. You just throw it out without even opening it. You put your trash out to the curb or bring it to the local landfill and a person who routinely picks through trash looking for returnable bottles, cans or credit card applications. By going through your trash this person has captured enough information to steal your identity. A few weeks later you begin to receive letters and phone calls threatening to foreclose on your car, home and other livelihoods due to bills in excess of thousands of dollars. Do you realize the full extent of the theft? Identity theft is quickly becoming one of America s fastest growing industries. Operating under a variety of methods, identity thieves are obtaining key pieces of our identities and fraudulently using that information for various illegal reasons. Your Social Security number, driver s license number, credit card number, or other personal identifiers will easily provide these thieves with enough information to steal your identity. What can you do to reduce your chances of having someone steal your identity? The safeguarding of your personal information is critical. It is your identity and it is your responsibility to protect it. Take the following steps to reduce the amount of personal information that can be exploited: Release your Social security Number (SSN) only when absolutely necessary. Your SSN is the key to banking and credit card accounts. DO NOT have your SSN printed on checks. Do not have your SSN on your Massachusetts Drivers License. When you renew your license request an S number this is an assigned number not reflective of your Social Security Number. Order your Social Security Earnings and Benefits Statement once a year to check for fraud by calling (800) If your SSN is fraudulently used, report it to the Social Security Hotline at (800) Reduce the number of credit cards you actively use and CANCEL all unused accounts. Maintain a photocopy of the front and back of all your credit cards in a safe location. If a fraudulent charge appear on one of your accounts, call the Consumer Credit Counseling Service at (800) for help in clearing false claims on your credit report. SHRED pre-approved credit applications, credit receipts, bills and other financial information before just throwing it in the trash. As the saying goes One mans

2 trash is another mans treasure. If you don t have a shredder at home, get permission to shred items at the office. Checking your credit report is an easy and necessary financial chore, which should be done every year from each of the three credit reporting bureaus. This should be done to check for inaccuracies and fraudulent use of your accounts. Massachusetts Law allows for Massachusetts residents to receive one free credit report per year from each of the three credit reporting bureaus. Consider removing your name from the marketing lists to reduce the number of pre-approved credit applications you receive in the mail. Requesting a copy of your credit report. You will need to provide a written letter of request for your credit report (see sample attached). In addition to the letter, you will need to supply proof of identity and address. A copy of your recent telephone bill is usually sufficient; in some cases a copy of your drivers license is required. Requirement vary from one credit bureau to another, so call first to obtain the required identification. Equifax Credit Reporting Bureau, P.O. Box , Atlanta, GA To order a copy of your credit report, call (800) and to remove your name from receiving pre-approved credit offers and marketing list, call (800) or write to the above address. Experian Credit Reporting Bureau (formerly TRW), P.O. Box 1017, Allen, TX To order a copy of your credit report, call (888) and to remove your name from receiving pre-approved credit offers and marketing list, call (800) or write to the above address. Trans Union, P.O. 6790, Fullerton, CA To order a copy of your credit report, call (800) and to remove your name from receiving pre-approved credit offers and marketing list, call (800) or write to the above address. What to do if you find an error on your credit report? If you find an error or want to dispute information contained in your report contacting one of the credit bureaus is not enough. You must contact all three national credit rating bureaus to be sure the information is consistent. Always, keep copies of any and all correspondence with the credit reporting bureaus. Even after you correct errors and remove fraudulent entries to your file, the information could reappear at some future time.

3 Send all correspondence by certified mail, return receipt requested. What to do if your credit cards have been stolen or you are the victim of identity fraud. Immediately contact each national credit bureau tell them to place a security alert on your file.* This will alert them if someone tries to open credit applications in your name. Additionally, follow-up your call with a letter request to have a security alert placed on your file. This action will require verification by you through your address of record before creditors open any additional accounts. Also, obtain a copy of your credit report. Remember, it is your responsibility to resolve problems with your credit. If your credit cards are stolen at 9:00 A.M. one day and you notify your credit card company (Visa, MasterCard, etc.) they are not deactivated until midnight that night! Therefore, the thief can run up thousands of dollars worth of stolen merchandise on your account. If you have a debit card, often the money comes directly out of your account and it can take several months, if at all, before it is returned to your account. Do not discard receipts which you ve paid for by credit cards. Many receipts have your entire credit card number and date of expiration printed on them. * Ask how long the security alert will stay on your file, and how can you extend it if necessary. What Else Can I Do? Reduce the amount of junk mail and unwanted telemarketing calls by writing to the following: (1) Unwanted junk mail, contact the Direct Marketing Association s (DMA) Mail Preferences Service, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY Request that your name and address be removed from all mailing lists. (2) Unwanted telemarketing, contact the Direct Marketing Association s (DMA)Telephone Preference Services, P.O. Box 9014, Farmingdale, NY Request your name and address be removed from their telemarketing list. Also, be aware when dialing and 800,888 or 900 number the company you dial probably captures your name, address and telephone number. Dialing *67 before any call should, in most states, conceal your identification. NOTE: These two DMA requests MUST be filed separately and are only good for 5 years. At the end of that time you must resubmit your requests. They only accept written requests, however a general information number for DMA is (212) Identity theft problem is going to continue to grow. So does the access to personal information compiled in databases not to mention the Internet, which has little or no

4 privacy protection standards. Your personal privacy and identity are paramount! The above mentioned crime prevention tips will reduce your risk of identity fraud. Being aware of your personal information to keep it out of the hands of the identity thief is no small task. An excellent web site for additional information is the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, 1717 Kettner Ave. Suite 105, San Diego, CA Report the crime to your local police. Provide the police with as much information as possible. Ask the officer for the report number so you can obtain a copy of the report for your records remember it is your burden to resolve the credit discrepancies. This information was obtained from the following sources: 1. Financial Organized Crime Task Force, Secret Service Agency 2. Privacy Rights Clearing House, 3. Identity Theft Resource Center, The Police at MIT Crime Prevention Unit W (617)

5 SAMPLE LETTER DATE Company Name (Experion, etc.) Address City, State, ZIP Ladies and Gentlemen: I would like to request a copy of my annual complimentary credit report. My Name: Spouse: (if applicable) SS#: Previous Names: Current Address: ( Years) Previous Address: (applicable if current is less than 5 years) A copy of my most recent telephone bill is enclosed to serve as proof of my current address. Your prompt attention to this request is appreciated. Very Truly Yours, (Signature)

6 DATE Sample Security Alert Letter Company Name (Experion, etc.) Address City, State, ZIP Ladies and Gentlemen: Please place a Security Alert on my file to warn credit issuers that imposters may be using my personal information to fraudulently obtain credit. Due to these problems, creditors are requested to verify any requests with me directly at my home address or phone number ( _). Credit card accounts should not be open by phone, only in writing, my or my (husband/wife/significant other) name. FRAUDULENT ACTIVITIES, TO DATE, HAVE INCLUDED: Address changes to credit card account to Request for new PIN numbers. Attempts to open accounts by phone. Requests for Convenience Checks drawn of credit card accounts. Attempts to draw cash advances on existing credit cards. My Name: Spouse/Significant Other: (if applicable) SS#: Date of Birth: Previous Names: Current Address: ( Years) Previous Address: (applicable if current is less than 5 years) A copy of my most recent telephone bill is enclosed to serve as proof of my current address. Your prompt attention to this request is appreciated. Very Truly Yours,

Dear Concerned Consumer,

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