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Avoiding ID Theft

Identity Theft: DETER, DETECT, DEFEND!

In the blink of an eye, unscrupulous identity thieves can gain access to your personal and/or financial information and ruin the good name you’ve worked your whole life to establish for yourself. And If you’re unprepared and don’t recognize that the crime has taken place, months or even years worth of damage can accumulate before being noticed and action can be taken to resolve the problem. The effects can be devastating, putting you and your family’s well-being in jeopardy.
Here’s some good news… the information contained in this report can reduce your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft … and minimize the effects if you ever do. By taking just a few minutes right now, you can learn how to DETER, DETECT, and DEFEND against identity theft! Read on to learn what you’ll need to do before and after the crime.
In the new Deter, Detect, Defend campaign, The Federal Trade Commission has broken the process of dealing with identity theft into 3 helpful phases, and outlined steps to be taken in each.

DETER – Deter identity thieves by safeguarding your information
  • Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information
    All bills and account statements, credit card offers, and any other pieces of mail that contain your personal or financial information should be shredded and not just thrown in the trash.
  • Protect your Social Security number
    Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
  • Don’t give out your personal information
    Whether on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet don’t reveal your personal information unless you know who you are dealing with. Check with the Better Business Bureau if you have questions about a company’s legitimacy.
  • Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails
    If it is a company you know and have an existing relationship with, type the web address you know directly into your web browser. Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer. Keep them up-to-date to guard against the latest threats.
  • Don’t use obvious passwords
    Common and simple passwords like your date of birth, your mother’s maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number are too easy for a thieve to guess.
  • Keep your personal information in a secure place at home
    This is especially important if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your home.
DETECT – Detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements
  • Be alert to signs that require immediate attention
    • Bills that do not arrive as expected
    • Unexpected credit cards or account statements
    • Denials of credit for no apparent reason
    • Calls or letters about purchases you did not make
  • Inspect:
    • Your credit report. Credit reports contain information about you, including what accounts you have and your bill paying history.
    • The law requires the major nationwide consumer reporting companies–Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion–to give you a free copy of your credit report once a year upon request.
    • Your financial statements. Review financial accounts and billing statements regularly, looking for charges you did not make.
DEFEND – Defend against Identity Theft as soon as you suspect it
  • Place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit reports and review the reports carefully
    A Fraud Alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have toll-free numbers for placing an initial 90-day fraud alert; a call to one company is sufficient. Placing a fraud alert entitles you to free copies of your credit reports. Look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open, and debts on your accounts you don’t recognize and can’t explain.
  • Close accounts
    Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently.
    • Call the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened or changed without your consent. Follow up with copies of supporting documents.
    • Use the ID Theft Affidavit at to support your written statement.
    • Ask for verification that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged.
    • Keep copies of documents and records of conversations about the theft.
  • File a police report
    File a report with law enforcement officials to help you with creditors who may want proof of the crime.
  • Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission
    Your report helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigations.
    • Online:
    • By phone: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338)
    • By mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580