Identity theft or identity fraud, the fastest growing crime in the United States, is the taking of a victim’s identity for financial gain or to conceal the real identity of the perpetrator. If an identity thief can get access to your Social Security number, your date of birth, or even sometimes just your address and telephone number, they can use that information to assume your identity. They can open new credit card accounts, access your present bank accounts, rent a house or apartment, establish utility company accounts and even obtain a job—all in your name.
The following are basic, yet very effective, things that you can do to protect your identity.
Protect You Social Security Number
Your Social Security Number (SSN) is of great importance to an identity thief. Do not carry your Social Security Card or SSN in your purse or wallet; keep it in a locked, secure place. Give your SSN only when it is necessary.
Monitor Your Financial Statements
Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if your bills do not arrive on time. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks. Thoroughly review your statements for any unauthorized transactions or activity.
Review Your Credit Reports
Monitor your credit report annually. Verify that all the information is correct. Many times your credit report can be the first clue that an identity thief is at work to steal your good name.
Protect Your Postal Mail
Mail is involved in a significant number of identity theft cases. Retrieve your mail as soon as possible and never place outgoing mail in the mailbox. Enhance your security by using a post office box.
Guard Your Personal Information
Do not give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you initiated the contact or are sure you know who you are dealing with. Identity thieves may pose as representatives of banks, Internet service providers (ISPs) and even government agencies to get you to reveal your SSN, mother’s maiden name, account numbers and other identifying information.
Secure Your Personal Documents
Your personal documents contain your personal information. For those documents that you are required to keep, place them in a locked, secure place. Do so especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having service work done in your home. Shred your mail and any personal documents that you are not required to keep. Shredding your mail, confetti cut, is absolutely essential to protecting your identity.
Watch Out For Promotional Scams
Identity thieves may use phony offers to entice you to give them your personal information. Remember the old adage: “If it sounds too good to be true…it probably isn’t.”
If you have any further questions please call the Riverside County Sheriff's Department at (760) 836-1600.