Navajo County Attorney’s Office
Identity Theft and Consumer Protection Information
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in the nation today. It is affecting
over half a million people each year, costing millions of dollars in damage to credit
ratings and savings accounts.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information,
like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission,
to commit fraud or other crimes. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as
many as 10 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.
Identity theft is serious. People whose identities have been stolen can spend hundreds
of dollars and dozens of hours cleaning up the mess thieves have made of their good
name and credit record. Consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job
opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing, or cars because of negative
information on their credit reports. They may even be arrested for crimes they did
not commit. The potential for damage, loss and stress is considerable.
How do thieves steal an identity?
You may be the victim of identity theft and not even know it. Identity theft starts
with the misuse of your personally identifying information. For identity thieves,
your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account
information is as good as gold. Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods
to get hold of your information:
- They may steal your mail, wallet, or purse. They may even rummage through trash
looking for bills or other papers with your personal information on it.
- They may get personal information from you by posing as legitimate companies through
email, in a practice known as “phishing.” Or they might lie to you on the phone.
- They may take your information from businesses or other institutions by stealing
personnel records, bribing or conning an employee who has access to these records,
or breaking into your records electronically. Some identity theft victims even report
that their information has been stolen by someone they know.
What can you do?
With the rapid advancements of technology in our society comes increased risks of
identity theft. The following steps can help reduce the risk that you will be a
victim of identity theft.
- Shred, burn or destroy documents containing personal information prior to disposing
of them, including blank credit card applications and convenience checks.
- Don’t put your Social Security number on your driver’s license.
- Never give personal information over the phone unless you have initiated the contact
to a verifiable company or financial institution. If a company you do business with
calls you and needs personal information, call them back to ensure you are talking
with the right people.
- Do not keep your registration, insurance, checkbook, receipts or other information
that can identify you in your car. Do not leave your car unlocked or unattended.
- Make sure you use a secure connection if you use the internet to purchase items,
bank or otherwise give personal information. Look for the security lock and “https”
in the address bar when visiting a website.
- Do not respond to emails requesting personal information.
- Purchase virus protection software for your computer and keep it up to date. Free
upgrades are usually available to subscribers. Run virus scans on a frequent basis.
Visit www.OnGuardOnline.gov for more
- Request a copy of your credit report at least once a year. You can receive a free
credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com
- Review your credit card statements for purchases that were not made by you and contact
your credit card company immediately if you discover an unauthorized purchase.
- Protect your Social Security number. Never give it out over the phone, carry it
in your wallet or write it on a check.
- Use passwords on your accounts that are not easy to figure out. Come up with original
passwords that are not associated with your daily life or identifiable in anyway
other than to you.
- Do not store your list of passwords in an easily obtainable place such as your wallet,
rolodex, etc. Keep your personal information in a secure place especially if you
have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done in your house.
- When entering your PIN number, make sure that others cannot see the numbers you
- When traveling, stop all mail, newspapers and other recurring deliveries.
- Finally, keep a list of all credit card account numbers and expiration dates so
that you can contact creditors quickly.
If you have been a victim of identity theft:
- Contact your local law enforcement agency;
- Immediately contact the three credit reporting agencies and ask for a “Fraud Alert,”
which will help prevent new credit accounts from being opened without your permission;
- Contact the Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline (1-800-269-0271). Alert
them that your number has been stolen;
- Contact your banks and credit card companies. Review your statements;
- And click on the
Federal Trade Commission for in-depth information on the steps you should immediately
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