"Identity theft is when someone uses your personal information without permission to open fraudulent credit card accounts, access existing accounts, secure loans, and even obtain employment. Criminals go through trash cans, spy on you at ATMs, access public records, and even steal your mail. Previously, criminals stole your wallet for cash. Now they want your wallet to steal your good name. Protect yourself and your identity. "
-- John Cornyll, Texas Attorney General
What is personal information?
Any information that an impostor could use to commit fraud, such as a social security number, birth date, driver's license number, mother's maiden name, or bank account or credit card number.
- Consider installing a locked mailbox or using a post office box.
- If you place an order for checks or merchandise, arrange to pick them up rather than have them delivered. Never allow your social security number to be printed on your checks.
- Do not leave mail for the postal carrier to pickup. Mail your bills and other sensitive items at the post office.
- Remove your name from the marketing lists of the three credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. Tills wi11limit the number of pre-approved offers of credit that you receive. You can do this by calling toll-free, (888)5-0PT-OUT.
- Sign up for the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service and Telephone Preference Service. This will delete your name from members' marketing lists for up to five years.
- Watch the mail closely when you expect a new or reissued credit card to arrive.
Check your credit report.
A criminal may pose as an employer, loan officer, or landlord to request a copy of your credit report in an effort to access personal information. Order a copy of your credit report at least once a year from each of the three credit bureaus to check for inaccuracies or fraudulent use of accounts.
Be careful with credit cards.
- Reduce the number of credit cards you actively use and cancel the accounts that are not used.
- Keep a list of your credit cards, account numbers, and customer service telephone numbers in a secure place. You will need to contact those creditors if your cards are stolen.
- NEVER give out your credit card numbers or bank account numbers over the telephone unless YOU have initiated the call. Don't fall for telephone scams demanding your account numbers.
- Always take your credit card receipt with you after a transaction. Never throw the receipt away without properly shredding it.
- Check your billing statements each month for unauthorized charges. If you do not receive your bill on time, contact your creditor. It may be that a fraudulent change of address was filed with the creditor or the post office without your knowledge.
- NEVER write your account numbers on checks or the outside of envelopes.
- Shield your hand when entering your PIN at an ATM or when making long distance calls with your calling card. Identity thieves have been known to spy on their victims with binoculars or video cameras.
- If any of your credit card issuers send random-issue convenience checks, request in writing to be removed from those mailing lists.
- Request, in writing, that the issuer of each of your credit cards remove your name from their promotional lists which they may sell or share with other companies.