Identity Theft - Neighborhood Safe Neighborhood


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by Staff Neighborhood Safety Reporter

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the World.

Washington state is one of the top five states for identity theft ranked by the number of reports per population.

Washington’s identity theft law states that no person may knowingly obtain, possess, use, or transfer a means of identification or financial information of another person, living or dead, with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any crime.

You might be unaware of the debt mounting up in your name, as the bills for charges could be redirected to a bogus address, not yours. After several months of what appears to be a delinquency on payments, the creditor(s) may transfer your account to a collection agency or sell it to a debt buyer. Consequently, your credit report will be riddled with late payment histories and multiple accounts in collections.

Types of ID theft:

__ “Application Fraud:” when your identity is used to open a new account of some type, or an account takeover, so the criminal can steal money or access rewards. Examples of accounts include rewards accounts for airlines, hotels, or merchants; insurance policies; and other accounts.

__ An illegal immigrant may use your social security number (SSN) and date of birth (DOB) for employment purposes or to obtain a birth certificate. Imagine the confusion that can be created when the IRS wants to know why you didn't declare the extra income reported to them caused by someone using your name and social security number.

__ Arrested criminals will use false names, DOBs, and SSNs that belong to another. Innocent persons have discovered that they have criminal records because of a misused ID. See how easy it is for you to explain to family, coworkers or friends that you are mistakenly arrested for an outstanding criminal warrant.

Mitigate your risk:

__ Keep a list or photocopy all credit and identification cards, including front and back, so that you can quickly call the issuers to inform them about missing or stolen cards.

__ Request a free annual credit report on yourself to see if there are any unknown credit inquiries or unauthorized accounts.

Call 1-877-322-8228, or make a request online at:

__ Reconcile your check and credit card statements in a timely fashion and challenge any purchases that you did not make.

__ Limit the number of credit cards you have to reduce exposure. Cancel any inactive accounts, including department-store or bank-issued credit cards.

__ Destroy all unused pre-approved credit card, loan applications, blank ‘courtesy’ or ‘convenience checks’ from lenders to pay off balances on other cards, make new purchases, or secure a cash advance, etc. Destroy them or keep them in a secure place. Better yet, request to “OPT OUT!” This is good for two years or you can make it permanent. The mailbox thief only has to fill out these applications and redirect the return address to start using your credit.

Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT, or file a request online at:

__ Use the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do-Not-Call Registry to remove your name and number from telemarketing lists. You can enter up to three phone numbers and your email address.


__ Never give any important number out like your driver's license, credit card, bank account, date of birth or social security number to anyone you don't know over the telephone.

__ Minimize exposure of your drivers' license number, date of birth, social security number, and credit card numbers. If the numbers are requested for check cashing purposes, ask if the business has alternative options such as using a check-cashing card.

__ Never carry your Social Security card with you. Don’t put your number on your checks. It’s a primary target for identity thieves to access your credit report and bank accounts.

__ Safeguard your credit, debit, and ATM card receipts and shred them before disposing of them.

__ Shred your bank statements, tax documents, paycheck stubs and W-2 forms that contain your social security number and your name and address that dumpster divers might obtain.

__ Scrutinize your utility and subscription bills to make sure the charges are yours.

__ Destroy all checks immediately when you close a checking account.

__ Keep your PIN numbers somewhere that only you know. Don*t give out your PIN or write them on your credit cards or ATM cards.

__ Don’t give away too much personal information on your family web site. Full names, date of births, and address is too much information to post. By obtaining your "place-of-birth," the identity thief can possibly get your duplicate birth certificate.

__ Protect your mother's maiden name, especially when using family tree tracers and genealogy service web sites. Maiden names are often used as passwords to access accounts over the telephone.

__ Never leave your purse or wallet unattended, at work, at restaurants, at health fitness clubs, in your shopping cart, at church or at social gatherings.

__ Never leave your purse or wallet within view in your car, even when locked.

__ Secure your mail. Empty your mailbox daily, get a locking mailbox or a P.O. box. Never mail outgoing bill payments and checks from your mailbox. The payee’s name can be erased with solvents and they can copy your account numbers. Send mail from the post office or another secure location.

If You Become a Victim of Identity Theft:

NOTE: A ‘lost’ wallet or purse alone would likely not be sufficient grounds for identity theft. If a thief uses that information to commit fraud, that would qualify.

__ Report the incident to the police immediately. The correct police jurisdiction for the report would be where your identification was stolen. In order to file a crime report or incident report with law enforcement for identity theft, you will likely need to provide proof that you have been a victim.

__ Ask for a police report number and get a copy. A police report is often required to dispute fraudulent items. Enclose copies in correspondence with credit agencies.

__ Report all stolen cards to the issuers immediately and request new card numbers so that no new charges will be allowed unless you agree.

__ Change all of your passwords, PINs, and login information for that account.

__ Notify your bank in the event that your checks are stolen. Request that your account be closed. Fill out affidavits of forgeries for banks, credit grantors, and recipients of stolen checks.

__ Call a credit bureau and place a “Fraud Alert” on your name. This may help prevent additional fraud. An alert does not block potential new credit, but places a comment on your history. As soon as the credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will automatically be notified to place fraud alerts.

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285

Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)

Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289

__ Request a “Security Freeze” on your credit file with the EACH credit bureau so that it cannot be shared with potential creditors. You, too, will not be able to open new credit while a freeze is in place. Individuals can request that a freeze be temporarily lifted for the purpose of obtaining new credit. However, a credit freeze will not stop a credit reporting agency from sharing your credit file for purposes that are not related to credit. As of June 7, 2018, Washington residents are able to place a freeze for free.

More information on the link below:

__ If you suspect Social Security fraud, go online to Social Security Administration or call:

SSA Hotline: (800) 772-1213

__ If you know the fraud abuser, report them to the Federal Trade Commission

The FTC cannot resolve individual fraud reports, but they have tips to help you get your money back. The FTC accepts reports related to many topics, such as Identity theft, National Do Not Call Registry violations, computers, the internet and online privacy, telemarketing scams, credit scams, Immigration services, sweepstakes, lotteries, and prizes, business opportunities and work-at-home schemes, health and weight loss products, debt collection, credit reports, and financial matters.

=== RESOURCES & ADDITIONAL INFORMATION === (Federal Trade Commission)

(This is Neighborhood Safety Report #18). 

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