Money Management: ID Theft

Preventing and Resolving Identity Theft

There are many ways to have your identity "stolen" - from your discarded financial statements, a copy of your credit card number, or even your Social Security Number (SSN). Many people don't find out they're victims until they receive notification of misused credit, or they've been rejected for a loan.

To make sure your identity isn't stolen:

  • Shred or tear up receipts, credit card statements, credit solicitations, and bank statements before you discard them.
  • Keep your social security card in a very safe place - NOT your wallet. And be careful with other cards that might have your SSN on it, like your health insurance card or driver's license.
  • Check your bank and credit card statements carefully. Report any suspicious activity as soon as possible.
  • Keep an eye on your mail. If your mailbox isn't in a safe area, consider getting a P.O. Box.
  • Make a copy of all the cards in your wallet and keep them in a safe place as a reference in case your wallet is stolen.

If you find your identity has been stolen:

  • Contact any of the three credit reporting agencies: They'll attach a fraud alert to your credit report. It notifies potential lenders to contact you by phone before new credit can be established.
  • File a report with the police. Then, ask for a copy of the report or the report number.
  • Contact your credit card companies and banks by phone, and follow up with a letter.
  • Keep notes on every phone call, meeting, and conversation you have regarding clearing your name.

Smart ATM Use.

ATMs make banking very convenient - but be cautious during your visits.

  • Don't ever throw your receipt in the trash by the machine. While most financial institutions are now excluding or abbreviating account numbers and other information on ATM receipts, you can't assume that all financial institutions are. Don't let your information get in the wrong hands.
  • If anything looks suspicious about the machine or the people around it, don't use it.
  • Use discretion when keying in your PIN number. Try to shield the keypad from onlookers.
  • Remember - the balance on that slip isn't always the balance available! Your ATM receipt doesn't take into account checks that have not been submitted yet, or other transactions that are in the recording stages.

What to do if you lose your wallet.

If your wallet is missing, don't panic - take action by following these simple steps.

  • Cancel all of your credit, ATM, and debit cards. Reference the copies you made of everything in your wallet for contact information. Your statements should list phone numbers as well.
  • Contact any of the three credit reporting agencies: They'll post a fraud alert on your behalf.
  • File a police report by calling your local non-emergency number.
  • Contact your state's Department of Motor Vehicles, and ask them how to proceed with replacing your driver's license.
  • Be sure to get a new student ID.

This information is intended to be helpful as general guidance, but is not warranted and is not presented as tax, accounting, or legal advice. Individual situations will differ, please consult an appropriate advisor.

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