For 13 years, identity theft has been the #1 complaint made to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In 2011, Colorado residents made approximately 28,854 consumer complaints to the FTC. Of that number, 4,156 were regarding identity theft in the state of Colorado.
How is identity theft committed?
Many people are now using social media to communicate, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Myspace. Have you ever given much thought as to how much of your personal information is readily accessible online? Social media is now the major hunting ground for identity thieves. Stop and think about the type of things that could be available to everyone on these particular websites -your full name, birthdate, city and state where you are now located at, where you were born, family members listed, etc., Some game applications that seem to be just for having fun and getting to know one another can sometimes be too invasive if you are not careful. They ask you your favorite color, favorite vacation destination, favorite teacher’s name or pet names. These can actually be a precursor of discovering your passwords for your accounts. If you feel the need to list personal information online, for example your birthdate, at least remove the year. This would also mean that you need to not list what year you graduated from high school. You already know who your family is. So does everybody else really need to know? By setting privacy settings high, you reduce the risk somewhat. But keep in mind, although it is not a pleasant thought, the majority of identity theft is committed by friends and family. If they have access to it, you’re still at risk.
Not all identity thefts are this high tech. Some victims have reported just having their wallet/purse stolen or they just simply lost their identification while out one day/evening.
Personal information can also be obtained through burglaries of your home, your car, or your business. Remember to keep items such as your financial correspondence, tax returns, medical statements and anything with your social security number on it locked up in a safe place. Never just toss these type of documents into the trash without cross-shredding it first.
Deter identity thieves by safeguarding your information.
Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them. Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry your SS card in your wallet or write it down on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier. Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the internet unless you know who you are dealing with. Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your house.
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.
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 each year if you ask for it. You can also go to Annual Credit Report (www.annualcreditreport.com), which was a service created by the 3 companies, to order your free credit reports each year.
Your financial statements. Review financial accounts and billing statements regularly, looking for charges you did not make.
Defend against ID theft as soon as you suspect it.
Place a "Fraud Alert" on your credit reports and review the reports carefully. The alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. 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 that you can't explain. 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:
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 Experian: 1-888-397-3742 TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Close accounts. Close accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently by calling the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened or changed without your okay. Follow up in writing with copies of supporting documents.
ID Theft Affidavit. Use the ID Theft Affidavit at www.ftc.gov/idtheft to support your statement.
File a police report. Creditors 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. 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or TTY, 1-866-653-4261.
If you have any questions or would like printed materials regarding this topic, please contact Stacie Harris at the District Attorney’s Office at (719) 583-6030.