Perhaps you’ve always thought that identify theft would never happen to you. A Federal Trade Commission study released last week says that 9.9 million people had problems with identity theft last year that cost them $5 billion. Financial institutions lost another $48 billion.
Individuals collectively spent 297 million hours trying to get untangled from losses due to bad checks, fraudulent use of credit cards, stolen Social Security numbers and more. Nearly half of these consumers had no idea how these problems occurred.
Here are some tips from the Denver District Attorney’s Office on how to avoid identity theft. This is a complicated and stressful problem so do all you can to avoid being taken advantage of.
– Carry a close-fitting pouch instead of a purse and keep your wallet in a front pocket or in your sock.
– Reduce the items you carry such as extra credit cards, your Social Security card and checkbooks.
– Make sure that none of the cards that you carry has your Social Security number.
– Cut up, tear into small pieces or use a shredder to destroy all mail and other documents with your Social Security, bank and credit card numbers.
– Place mail with checks in a secure post box or at the post office.
– Keep a list of contact numbers for your credit and debit cards in an easy-to-find place. Call immediately when you discover a problem.
– If you have a problem, contact the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, 1-800-525-6285; Experian, 1-800-311-4769; Trans Union, 1-800-680-7289.
– For more information about identity fraud, go to the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site at http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/. There are a number of brochures available by clicking on Publications.
– Contact Call for Action at 866-434-6854 for instructions on how to deal with identity fraud. You can check out their brochure, "Identity Theft Resources" at www.callforaction.org.
– Sign up for the Colorado "No Call" list: 1-888-249-9097 and www.coloradonocall.com.
– To stop credit card offers, call the "Opt Out Line" at 1-888-567-8688.
– Remove your name from mailing lists by sending a letter with your name and mailing address to Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, New York 11735.
– Check out the information at the nonprofit Identify Theft Resource Center at http://www.idtheftcenter.org/index.shtml.
by Judy McKenna, Ph.D., CFP, Family Economics Specialist, Colorado State University, Cooperative Extension, firstname.lastname@example.org, 491-5772