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Identity Theft: How to Protect Yourself From Scammers

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Sound Credit Union presents Identity Theft: How to Protect Yourself From Scammers. During webinar we’ll cover what identity theft is, including how it occurs, how thieves use your information, how to protect yourself, and what to do if you become a victim.

This presentation is shared by our partners at GreenPath Financial Wellness, a trusted national non-profit focused on financial wellness for everyone.

To download the presentation, please click the link below:

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Tips on how to protect yourself from ID theft

Monitor Your Credit Report

The best place to get your credit report is annualcreditreport.com. It is the website that was set up as a result of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act), which entitles you to receive a free copy of your credit report. That act also gives you the right to see a copy of each of your three credit reports (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax) every 12 months. But during the pandemic, you can request free weekly credit reports.

If you prefer to request your credit report by mail from any, or all, of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies, there is a form you can fill out at annualcreditreport.com or you can call 877-322-8228 to receive it.

Please note that credit reports are free but if you want to know your credit score, there is a fee for each credit bureau.

Reviewing your credit report often will alert you to fraud or ID theft faster. It is recommended to review your credit report at least six months prior to applying for a loan so that you are able to have enough time to correct any errors. To learn more about credit scores and reports, click here.

Use Strong Passwords

  • Use different passwords for each account. If you need help remembering your passwords, try using a password manager.
  • Don’t just protect your accounts – protect your devices too.  Use passwords on your phone and computer.
  • Try using longer passphrases instead of passwords.  They are easier to remember and more difficult to hack.

Be Vigilant

  • Steer clear of suspicious websites and links.
  • Don’t give out your personal info to a caller or via email if you don’t know who you’re talking to.
  • Delete emails from unknown senders.
  • Don’t reply, click on links, download attachments, or call phone numbers listed in suspicious emails.
  • Protect your personal documents – shred sensitive documents!
  • Use credit monitoring programs to help you stay alert on any potential fraud on your accounts. Sound members have access to Fraud Defender, a fully managed identity theft recovery program that takes the work out of identity theft recovery.
  • Be aware of the current scams that are out there. Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Information site to learn about what recent scams to be aware of. 

What if you become a victim of ID theft?

Contact Government Authorities

You have the right to create an FTC Identity Theft Report. Your FTC Identity Theft Report helps prove to businesses that someone stole your identity, and makes it easier to correct problems caused by identity theft.

You can create an FTC Identity Theft Report by filing a report with the FTC.

Here’s how filing a report helps:

  • It acts as a declaration of your innocence.
  • It helps start the investigation.
  • A police report serves as sworn statement that you were not responsible for any crimes the thief committed using your name. If someone accuses you of a crime committed in your name, you can show them your sworn statement.
  • Filing an “Identity Theft Report” at IdentityTheft.gov serves a similar function, in most cases. It’s an official statement about the crime.

Important to note: The FTC recommends filing an Identity Theft Report first, and including it when you file a police report.

Contact Creditors and Financial Institutions

  • Stop creditors and debt collectors from reporting fraudulent accounts. After you give them a copy of a valid FTC Identity Theft Report, they may not report fraudulent accounts to the credit reporting companies.
  • Get copies of documents related to the theft of your identity, like transaction records or applications for new accounts. Write to the company that has the documents, and include a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report. You also can tell the company to give the documents to a specific law enforcement agency.
  • Stop a debt collector from contacting you. In most cases, debt collectors must stop contacting you after you send them a letter telling them to stop.
  • Get written information from a debt collector about a debt, including the name of the creditor and the amount you supposedly owe. If a debt collector contacts you about a debt, request this information in writing.

Contact the Credit Bureaus

  • Place a one-year fraud alert on your credit report. The fraud alert tells creditors that they must take reasonable steps to verify who is applying for credit in your name. To place this alert, contact one of the three national credit bureaus. The one bureau you contact must notify the others.
  • When you place a one-year fraud alert, you’re also entitled to a free copy of your credit reports. You’ll get a confirmation letter from each credit bureau with instructions for how to get your free reports.
  • Place a seven-year extended fraud alert on your credit report. To do this, send a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report to each credit bureau. The extended fraud alert means potential creditors must contact you before they issue credit in your name. In your letter, be sure to give the best way for a creditor to reach you.
  • Each credit bureau will send you a letter confirming that they placed an extended fraud alert on your file. That letter also will include instructions about how to get free copies of your credit report.
  • Get credit bureaus to remove fraudulent information from your credit report. This is called blocking. You must send them a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report, proof of your identity, and a letter stating which information is fraudulent. Then the credit bureau must tell the relevant creditor that someone stole your identity. Creditors cannot turn fraudulent debts over to debt collectors.
  • Dispute fraudulent or inaccurate information on your credit report. Do this by writing to the credit bureau. They must investigate your dispute and amend your report if you are right.
  • You have the right to place a free credit freeze on your credit report. A credit freeze, also called a security freeze, makes it less likely that an identity thief could open a new account in your name.

Contact Local Authorities

When to report identity theft to police

The FTC says it’s important to report identity theft to the police in these three cases:

  1. You know the identity thief or you have other information that could aid a police investigation.
  2. An identity thief used your name in an encounter with the police. For instance, this might involve a traffic stop.
  3. A creditor, debt collector, or other affected party insists you produce a police report.

In most other cases, you can report identity theft to IdentityTheft.gov. The FTC set up the website as a one-stop shop for reporting many types of identity theft. It also helps you to set up a recovery plan.

If you decide you want to report identity theft to the police, go to your local police office, as well as to the police office where the fraud took place, with this information:

  • A copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report
  • A government-issued photo ID
  • Proof of your address, such as a mortgage statement or utilities bill
  • Any proof you have of the theft, such as credit card statements, IRS notices or collection notices
  • Tell the police someone has stolen your identity and you want to file a report. Ask them to attach your FTC complaint to the report.
  • Ask for a copy of your police report. You will need it to give copies to creditors and credit bureaus as you take other steps to recover from identity theft.

Tips when filing a police report

With luck, filing a police report will go smoothly. You can then concentrate on taking steps to recover from identity theft.

But some police departments may not be fully prepared to take your report. For instance, officers may be preoccupied with other crimes or unfamiliar with how to handle identity theft cases.

Here are some tips that can help.

  • Be firm, but calm when seeking to file a police report.
  • Try to remain flexible. The police may send you to a website to fill out a form, instead of taking your information in person.
  • Contact your state attorney general’s office if the police are unable or unwilling to take your report. States may have different processes for filing a report. An attorney general’s office or website may be able to provide the details.
  • Be specific. When you make a police report, give detailed information about the identity theft, such as dates accounts were opened in your name or who might have committed the fraud.
  • Make copies of your identity theft police report and your FTC complaint. You’ll need these to resolve any disputes with companies where the identity thief used your name.

Bottom line: Reporting identity theft to the police or the FTC is a smart step to take. It could save time and money as you recover from identity theft.

Maintain Good Records & Follow-up

Make copies of your identity theft police report and your FTC complaint. You’ll need these to resolve any disputes with companies where the identity thief used your name.

Questions? Contact us!

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