Guard your personal information.
With so many means of identity theft available to thieves, it’s always a good idea to take a defensive approach when banking online. If you don’t do your part to guard your accounts and personal information, you will be more susceptible to fraud and identity theft
Monitor your accounts on a regular basis. If you notice any suspicious activity, no matter how small, report it. Thieves will sometimes conduct fraudulent transactions in small sums hoping it will go unnoticed.
Be pro-active. Get a copy of your credit report at least once a year. Make sure your information is correct and up-to-date. Take advantage of the one free credit report you’re allowed per year through AnnualCreditReport.com , the ONLY authorized source to get your free annual credit report under federal law.
If you suspect that your personal information has been stolen and used to commit fraud or theft, take action immediately. Here are some of the first steps you should take:
1. Place a fraud alert on your credit file and request your credit report for review.
Contact the fraud department of any one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file. The fraud alert requests creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or making any changes to your existing accounts. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will be notified automatically to place fraud alerts, and all three credit reports will be sent to you free of charge. Contact information for the three major credit bureaus can be found through AnnualCreditReport.com.
2. Close any bank and credit card accounts you believe to be compromised or opened without your authorization. Contact each company’s fraud department and follow-up in writing with copies of any supporting documents. If the thief made any transactions on your account or has opened any accounts under your name, request forms to dispute those transactions.
When you open new accounts, create new user names, PINs, passwords and avoid using easily available information such as your date of birth, mother’s maiden name phone number, or last four digits of your Social Security Number.
3. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Providing information about your situation to the FTC can help law enforcement officials track down and stop thieves from all over the country. You can file an online complaint form at www.ftc.gov or by calling their Identity Theft Hotline at 1-(877) ID-THEFT (438-4338).
In addition, you can include a copy of your complaint in your police report. Combined, these two items can constitute an Identity Theft Report which can give you certain protections. Learn more at www.ftc.gov.
4. Contact your local police and file a report.
Report any suspected theft of your information to your local police, preferably in person. Be sure to bring a copy of your FTC ID Theft Complaint Form and a cover letter explaining the importance a police report is for identity theft victims, along with any other supporting documentation to prove your case. Debt collection letters, credit reports and other evidence of fraudulent activity can help the police file a complete report. Get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others who may require proof of the crime.
5. Keep copies of EVERYTHING