Guarding Against Identity Theft

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If you are a victim of identity theft, place a fraud alert on your credit reports and review your reports periodically. Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact the toll-free number of any of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You need to contact only one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to inform the other two, which will then also place an alert on their versions of your credit report.

TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289;
Fraud Victim Assistance Division, PO Box 6790, Fullerton CA 92834-6790

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285;
PO Box 740241, Atlanta GA 30374-0241

Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742);
PO Box 9554, Allen TX 75013-9554

Once you place the fraud alert on your file, you are entitled to order free copies of your credit reports. If you ask, only the last four digits of your Social Security Number will appear on your credit reports. Once you get your credit reports, review them carefully. Look for inquiries from companies you have not contacted; accounts you did not open; and debts on your accounts that you cannot explain. Check that information like your Social Security Number, address(es) and name or initials are correct.

If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed. See the Federal Trade Commission’s comprehensive identity theft recovery guide, Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft, at to learn how. Continue to check your credit reports periodically, especially for the first year after you discover the identity theft, to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.

Skilled identity thieves use a variety of methods to steal your personal information, including:

They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
Thieves sometimes install small electronic devices called skimmers on ATM machines and gas pumps. The skimmers may read the data from the magnetic strip of the cards. Other electronic devices may include tiny cameras meant to record the entered PIN number. The information is then gathered to later create counterfeit cards to access funds in the account.
They pretend to be financial institutions, companies or government agencies, and send email or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
They hack into your email or other online accounts to access your personal information, or into a company’s database to access its records.
They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records from their employers, or bribe employees who have access.

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