Identity Theft Awareness
Defend yourself with knowledge, awareness, and detection.
Book the real Danny Lents to speak to your group about identity theft.
  

ID Theft Speaker

Almost 10 million Americans become victims of identity theft each year. I became a victim in 2001. I've researched identity theft extensively to protect myself and help others. I want to help you avoid this nightmare.

Your odds of becoming a victim are greatly reduced with knowledge, awareness, and detection. Take action now to avoid becoming the next identity theft victim.

Book the real Danny Lents to speak to your group about identity theft:

dlents@IdTheftAwareness.com

Seminar Flyer (pdf file)

Identity Theft Preventive Measures

Lock identity theft documents

You can never be 100% protected from identity thieves, but you can do a lot to make it difficult for thieves to get your information. Early detection is the key. An average of 12 months pass by before most people realize they are victims of Identity Theft.

Visit www.MyIdScore.com to get a free assessment of your ID theft risk. ID Analytics searches their real-time database that includes billions of records to look for unusual activity. This service cannot rule out all potential ID theft activity but it can serve as a possible warning if there is unusual activity using your name. You do not have to enter your social security number

Free Annual Credit reports

Credit bureaus, also known as Credit Reporting Agencies, maintain your credit history files. Order your credit report at least once each year from all three of the major credit bureaus to detect evidence of identity theft. Reviewing your credit report is the best tool to detect identity theft.

Thanks to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), all Americans can receive one free credit report from each bureau annually. Identity theft victims can receive two copies from each bureau in the year the theft occurs. ordered online, by phone, or by mail.

Online:www.annualcreditreport.com
(Don't confuse this with other web sites that claim to offer 'free credit reports'. Some sites claim a free service that automatically converts to a monthly fee if you don't cancel your membership after a trial period.
Also be aware of sites with slightly misspelled versions of the web site name. The Federal Trade Commission has an informative web site about the free annual credit report at this link.)

Phone: 1-877-322-8228

Mail: Mail the request form to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

You can order all three free credit reports at the same time, but it's a better idea to stagger your credit report orders to get a snapshot throughout the year. Your spouse should order their credit reports between your orders as shown in this figure. Schedule reminders in your phone right now.

Stagger Credit Report

Review your credit reports thoroughly for suspicious charges and credit inquires that represent attempts to open an account in your name. Incorrect addresses are also a clue a thief may have attempted to get a credit card in your name.

Additional Credit reports

The three major credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Each bureau will sell you credit reports for a small fee if you want additional credit reports after ordering your free reports. You can order additional credit reports through a credit bureau web site, by phone, or by mail as shown below.

You can request additional free credit reports when you submit fraud alerts.

Credit Bureau Contact Info

Equifax Order Credit Reports
Online: www.equifax.com
Phone: 1-800-685-1111
Mail: P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241


Report Fraud
Phone: 1-800-525-6285
Mail: P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Experian Order Credit Reports
Online: www.experian.com
Phone: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
Mail: P.O. Box 2104
Allen TX 75013


Report Fraud
Phone: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
P.O. Box 9532,
Allen TX 75013

TransUnion Order Credit Reports
Online: www.transunion.com
Phone: 1-800-916-8800
Mail: P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022


Report Fraud
Phone: 1-800-680-7289
Mail: Victim Assistance Division
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634

Fraud Alerts and Credit Freezes

Fraud alerts and credit freezes make it harder for your thief to get new credit in your name.

Fraud alerts place an ID theft warning statement and your phone numbers at the bottom of your credit report. A creditor is required by law to contact you before issuing credit. This will give you an opportunity to stop your thief. A fraud alert will provide you with an opportunity to order one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus anytime within 12 months after the fraud alert date. This is in addition to the free annual reports, which means you can get a total of 6 free credit reports a year. You can order a free report every two months, kind of like a free version of a credit monitoring service! Click this link for more information about fraud alerts.

A credit freeze, also known as a security freeze, provides a method to prevent anyone from looking at your credit report without your involvement. You have to provide a personal identification number (PIN) to the credit bureau to "thaw" out your credit report and allow access by someone you authorize. This will stop your thief from applying for new credit where a merchant requires a credit report to authorize credit.


Free Specialty Reports

The FACT act has made other specialty reports available free of charge.

Stop those pre-approved credit card offers

Are you getting tired of all those pre-approved credit card offers in your mailbox? Your identity thief loves to steal them from your mailbox. You can stop them today.

Creditors pre-screen your credit history with the one or more of the credit bureaus before they mail a pre-approved credit card offer to you. That's where you have the power. You can stop the credit bureau pre-screening by calling 1-888-5OPTOUT (1-888-567- 8688). The three major credit bureaus use the same toll-free number to let consumers choose not to receive pre-screened credit offers. Make the call for each person in your family. You can also opt out through a single web site.

You will be able to
  • Opt-in ( an unwise decision )
  • Opt-out for five years
  • Opt out permanently ( a very wise decision )

Passwords

Put passwords on your credit card, credit union, retirement, and phone accounts and with any other financial relationship you have. Don't confuse this idea with the passwords you might use when logging into a web site. These passwords are used when you call or visit a business. For example, your bank should not talk to you on the phone or at the teller without asking your for this password.

Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your SSN or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers. Test the businesses occasionally to ensure they continue to ask for your password.

You definitely want to avoid the situation where the identity thief sets up a password of his choosing with your financial institutions. Imagine the surprise when you call your credit card company and they inform you that they can't share information with you without the password! It has happened. Put passwords on your accounts before the thief has an opportunity to do it.

Guard your mail from theft

Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office. Promptly remove mail from an unlocked mailbox. Replace curbside mailboxes with lockable boxes. Your postman won't be able to pick up mail from your box but he'll still be able to deliver it.

Contact the post office to request your mail be held at the post office if you will be away for a while. You can request a mail hold online at https://dunsapp.usps.gov/HoldMail.jsp or call 1-800-275-8777.

Pick up check orders from your credit union instead of having them mailed to your house.

Be aware of when monthly bills, statements, and other sensitive information normally arrive in your mailbox. Missing mail could be an indicator that identity thieves are stealing your mail. A missing credit card bill could mean your thief has taken over your credit card account and changed your billing address. Contact the credit card issuer if you apply for a credit card and it doesn't arrive in the mail within a reasonable amount of time.

Protection against insiders

Contact your employer and businesses that maintain records on you. Find out who has access to your personal information and how it is handled. Verify that they keep your records in a secure location.

Does your dentist leave patient records unlocked after business hours giving full access to the cleaning crew? Ask your dentist why he/she feels comfortable putting you at risk. Don't accept the answer " my cleaning crew is bonded". Thieves are not concerned about that. A bonded crew may protect your dentist but it won't protect you.

Protect Your Computer

Learn about potential threats and ways to protect your computer. Visit StaySafeOnline.org to learn more about computer use safety. .

Avoid Phishing Attempts

A fisherman doesn't catch all the fish in the sea when he casts his net but he will capture enough to make it worthwhile. Identity thieves can also 'cast a wide net' for phishing by sending out thousands of emails with the press of a button. The emails contain bait to lure the unsuspecting victims. The phishing emails try to instill a sense of urgency or tempt you with amazing opportunities to get rich quick.

Don't click on links in emails or reply to them if you don't know the sender or you suspect a phishing attempt.

Fake web sites are also used for phishing attempts. Some phishing sites use typosquatting to trick an unsuspecting user. The identity thieves will register domains with web addresses very close to commonly used web sites to collect passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers and other interesting pieces of information. The World Privacy Forum identified 96 domains that are similar to www.annualcreditreport.com.

Your web browser has settings to help you avoid phishing web sites by comparing links to databases of known phishing sites.

  • IE7 - Select Tools >Phishing Filter > Turn On Automatic Web site Checking and then press OK
  • FireFox - The phishing filter is enabled by default using a downloaded list of known phishing sites. You can use Google's updated list of phishing sites by selecting Tools > Options > Security and then selecting 'Check by asking Google about each site I visit'.

Protect your social security number

Social Security Card The Social Security Act was enacted in August 1935. A byproduct of this legislation was the decision to assign every citizen who qualified for social security benefits and/or contributed a social security tax the unique record identifier that is widely known as the Social Security Number. The intention from the beginning was that the SSN be a primary identifier only within the Social Security Administration. What happened?

Your social security number is used everywhere today. It's the perfect unique identifier used by computer databases in all aspects of business. Sadly, the SSN is even used as a student ID in many universities. The ubiquitous use of the SSN is exactly what makes it so valuable to the identity thief.

  • Give your SSN only when absolutely necessary. Sometimes businesses want your SSN for simple record keeping. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible.
  • Don't put your SSN on your checks and don't let a merchant do it either.
  • Don't carry your social security card; leave it in a secure place.
  • Ask businesses not to print your SSN on documents sent through the mail.
  • Don't list sensitive information on social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
  • If a business/organization insists you provide your SSN, ask about their data protection policies and how they handle data breaches.

Protect the deceased

  • Keep some information out of the obituary.
    • Use year of birth instead of month, day, and year.
    • Don't put addresses. ( ID thieves and burglars like this info ).
  • Notify the Social Security Administration of the death.
    • Call 800-772-1213
    • The hearing impaired can call 800-325-0778
  • Cancel all credit cards and other financial accounts in the deceased's name.
  • Use certified mail to send copies of the death certificate to all three credit bureaus and request that a "deceased" alert be added to their credit report.
    Equifax Office of Fraud Assistance
    PO Box 105069
    Atlanta, GA 30348
    Experian
    PO Box 9530
    Allen, TX 75013
    TransUnion
    PO Box 6790
    Fullerton, CA 92834
  • Cancel driver's license to prevent duplicates from being issued.
  • Order a credit report for the deceased several weeks after their death to check for suspicious activity.

Destroy Your Hard Drive - Computer & Copy Machine

Don't throw away your computer without completely destroying the data on the hard drive.

Digital copy machines contain hard drives too. Has your copy machine ever been used to copy, scan, or print documents with sensitive information?  Read "Copier Data Security: A Guide for Business from the Federal Trade Commission.

What's in your wallet or purse?

Minimize the identification information and the number of credit cards you carry to what you'll actually need. What will your identity thief get if he stole your wallet or purse right now? Take some time now to make copies of the important items - credit cards, ID cards, ATM cards, etc. Make a contact list of the fraud departments for each account.

Do you really need to carry two or more credit cards?

You rarely need your social security card - please don't carry it with you.

Monitor and Protect Financial Accounts

Check your bank and credit card statements thoroughly and frequently. Online accounts make this job much easier and increase your odds of early detection.

Sign up with your bank and credit card company to email alerts or text alerts to your cell phone.

Use virtual credit card numbers when possible. Many credit card companies offer this service where you can create a temporary credit card number online. You choose the expiration date and credit limit. Your account will still be charged but a thief would have limited capacity to abuse the temporary number. You have limited liability with credit purchases so you may not put much value in the virtual credit card number. It's still a good idea to make life harder for the thief. Also consider that losses absorbed by the credit card companies will eventually be passed on to consumers.

Consider the following if you have to use checks:

  • Check printing ideas
    • Use initials for your first and middle name. The thief may have to guess at your name when forging your check.
    • Use your cell phone instead of your home number.
    • Never print your social security number or drivers license number.
    • Use a P.O. Box address if you have one instead of your home address.
  • When writing a check to pay a credit card account, only list the last 4 digits on the For line.
  • Have check orders delivered to your bank or credit union for pick-up instead of your home mailbox.

Protect Your Paper Documents

You have documents everywhere -- in your car, your home, your desk drawer at work...   Lock up any documents containing identifying information. Don't make it easy for others to have access in open view or in an unlocked container.

Shred, Shred, Shred

Get in the habit of using a cross-cut shredder to shred all documents with information you're not willing to share with others. Inquire about the shredding policies of businesses that maintain information about you. Put your garbage on the curb on the day of collection. Don't allow a thief to have access to your garbage during the cover of darkness.

Medical Identity Fraud

Medical identity theft happens when someone uses your identity to get medical care, prescriptions, insurance, and other medically related services.

Visit the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance to learn more about medical identity theft and ways to avoid the crime.