In February, Postmaster General John Potter sent a letter presumably to all addresses and enclosed a Identity Theft brochure from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The Postmaster General’s letter reported that according to a FTC survey only 2% of all identity theft victims believed the theft of their identity was related to mail. Even so they sent this letter to educate consumers.
So many times when dealing with users the response is “I’ve got nothing to hide” or “I wont be a victim” or “I’ve got nothing worth protecting”. The Postmaster Generals letter points out that if someone steals your identity, it can effect your credit standing, your ability to buy a car or home, get a job or obtain medical care. Once victimized it is not easy to clean up.
The FTC brochure has a link to the FTC’s Identity Theft Site.
The brochure has three key sections.
- Shred financial documents and paperwork before you discard them
- Protect your social security number. Do not carry it in your wallet or write it on a check. Give it out only where necessary, or ask to use another identifier.
- Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
- Never click on links in unsolicited emails. Instead type in a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up to date. Visit onguardonline.gov for more information
- Don’t use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother’s maiden name or the last four digits of your social security number
- Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done in your home.
Be alert to signs that require immediate attention
- Bills that do not arrive as expected
- Unexpected credit cards or account statements
- Denials of credit for no apparent reason
- Calls or letters about purchases you did not make
Inspect your credit report (www.annualcreditreport.com) and your financial statements.
Defend against ID theft as soon as you suspect it.
- Place a “fraud alert” on your credit reports.
- Close any account that has been tampered with or established fraudulently.
- File a police report
- Report the theft to the FTC
Common Ways ID Theft Happens:
- Dumpster Diving.
- Skimming – skimmers are a special device that steals your credit/debit card numbers.
- Changing your address
- Theft of wallet/purse, mail, records