Tips for the Mailbox
The majority of identity theft happens at the mailbox. Make sure your private information is protected by taking the following precautions:
- Deposit outgoing mail at the Post Office
- Remove incoming mail from your personal mailbox as soon as possible, or use a P.O. Box or locked, secure mailbox
- Request a mail hold (online from the United Postal Service or call them at 1-800-275-8777) if you plan to be away from home for an extended period.
- Know your billing cycles. If bills are late or missing, contact your creditors.
- If you call to cancel your debit card, we will issue you a replacement card within five business days.
- Switch to a more secure way of receiving your account statement. When you sign up for paperless eStatements, your statement will no longer sit in your mailbox. Instead you can decide when you want to view your information online.
Tips for the Phone
- Do not give out personal information, such as your account numbers, card numbers, Social Security/tax identification numbers, passwords, or PINs, unless you have initiated the call.
- If you ever believe you are not talking to a representative of a legitimate company, hang up and call the phone number listed in the telephone book.
- NOTE: WE WILL NOT MAKE AN UNSOLICITED CALL REQUESTING YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION.
Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
Identity thieves use many ways of getting your personal financial information so they can make fraudulent charges or withdrawals from your accounts. Do you know how you can reduce the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft? Take this simple quiz, and see how you score:
1. Never write your PIN (Personal Identification Number) on any of your cards. That way, if you lose your ATM or credit card, identity thieves or other criminals won’t have instant access to your bank or credit card account.
2. When you leave the house, only take the ATM and credit cards you need for personal or business purchases. If your wallet or purse is lost or stolen and you’re carrying fewer cards, you’ll have to make fewer calls to banks and credit card companies to report the losses, and the odds of fraudulent charges in your name will be lower.
3. Always look carefully at your monthly credit card statements to make sure there are no transactions you don’t recognize. Someone who gets your credit card number and expiration date doesn’t need the actual card to charge purchases to your account. You must report fraudulent transactions promptly in order to dispute them. Otherwise you might not have any recourse. As soon as you see unauthorized charges on your statement, contact the credit card company immediately to report them.
4. Always shred old bank statements, credit card bills, or other financial documents before putting them in the trash. Some identity thieves aren’t shy about “dumpster diving.” This is just what it sounds like—literally climbing into dumpsters or rooting through trash bins to look for identifying information that someone threw out. Buying and using a shredder on your home or office is an inexpensive way to frustrate dumpster divers and protect your personal data.
5. Always shred any pre-approved credit card applications that you are not going to use before putting them in the trash. If you throw out the documents without tearing them up or shredding them, “dumpster divers” can send them back to the credit card company, pretending to be you but saying that your address has changed. If they can use the account from a new location, you may not know the account’s being used in your name until you see it on a credit report (see below).
6. Request a copy of your credit report at least once a year. Any consumer can request one free copy of his or her credit report per year. Reviewing your credit report can help you find out if someone has opened unauthorized financial accounts, or taken out unauthorized loans, in your name. Contact the three major credit bureaus to request a copy:
- Equifax – Equifax.com (1-800-685-1111)
- Experian – Experian.com (1-888-397-3742)
- Trans Union – TransUnion.com (1-800-916-8800)
7. If the volume of the mail you get at home has dropped off substantially, check with your local post office to see if anyone has improperly filed a change-of-address card in your name. Some identity thieves may try to take over your credit card and bank accounts, and delay your discovery of their criminal activities, by having your mail diverted to a new address where they can go through it without your knowledge. Your local post office should have on file any change-of-address cards, and can respond if you find that someone is improperly diverting your mail.
8. If you think that you may be a victim of identity theft, immediately contact authorities:
- The Federal Trade Commission to report the situation to get guidance on what to do.
- The three major credit bureaus to inform them of the situation.
- My local police department to have an officer take a report.
- Any businesses where the identity thief fraudulently conducted transactions in my name.
Identity theft is a crime under federal law, and under the laws of more than 44 states, that carries serious penalties including imprisonment and fines. To help law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) maintains a national database of complaints by identity theft victims. The FTC, through a toll-free hotline (1-877-ID-THEFT), can also help you decide what steps to take in trying to remedy the situation and restore your good name and credit. Credit bureaus should also be notified so that they can flag your credit report. Local police, by taking a report and providing you with a copy, can help you show creditors that an identity thief has been conducting certain transactions in your name and without your permission.
Remember that identity thieves, unlike robbers or fraudsters, don’t have to have any personal contact with you in order to commit their crimes. The more you do to protect your personal information, the lower the odds that you’ll become a victim of identity theft.
For more information about identity theft, go to The Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Website.