Identity Theft and Military Members
Identity theft is the crime in which one uses your personal data for fraudulent or deceptive purposes, usually to obtain economic gain. Unlike
fingerprints, personal data such as your social security number, credit cards numbers, and telephone card numbers can be taken from you and used
to your disadvantage. The harm you might suffer can be greater than the immediate economic loss. It can also
include ruining your reputation, criminally and financially.
How can I avoid becoming a victim of identity theft?
Below are things you can do to prevent becoming a victim:
a. Adopt a “need to know” approach to personal information. Unless you trust the person, or they have a good reason why they need your personal
information, avoid disclosing it.
b. Check your financial statements as soon as they are available. Look at your bank records, telephone records, and credit card records to see if
there are any unexplained charges, withdrawals or phone calls. If there is, contact the company that issued the statement as soon as possible.
c. Review a combined copy of your credit report (all three reporting agencies) annually. Check your credit report for any unexplained accounts
opened in your name. If such accounts exist, write to the credit-reporting agency as soon as possible.
d. Keep copies of all bank and financial statements for at least one year. These documents may help you resolve identity theft related disputes
should you become a victim.
e. If you are sending a check via mail, do not put it in your mailbox. Rather, drop it off at the post office or a USPS mailbox.
f. Cancel all credit cards that you have not used within 6 months.
g. Avoid “Dumpster Divers.” Do not throw away important documents, such as credit card receipts or pre-approved credit applications. Shred these
documents to ensure that thieves will not be able to use them against you.
h. Look out for “Shoulder Surfers,” i.e., people who will look over you shoulder while you using an ATM to get your PIN number.
i. The next time you order checks, do not put your signature block on them. Using your initial will not allow the thief to determine how you sign your
names on your checks.
j. Do not sign the back of your credit card; however, certain merchants may not accept and unsigned credit card (e.g. the United States Postal
Service). If a clerk actually checks for a signature, be prepared to show photo identification. NEVER have your social security number printed on your
k. Keep a record of all the information you carry in your purse/wallet. If it is ever lost or stolen, you will know who to call and cancel accounts.
l. When you check out of a hotel that uses cards for keys, do not turn in the key. The cards contain all the information you gave the hotel, including
address, credit card numbers and expiration dates. Someone with a card reader, or employee of the hotel, can copy the information on the card.
If I become a victim of identity theft, what can I do?
Get the records you maintained on your creditors and banks accounts. Then call each to provide notice of the theft and have the appropriate action
taken, including canceling the accounts.
a. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC has been charged with the responsibility of receiving and processing complaints from
individuals who may have been victims of identity theft. The FTC will also help refer your complaint to the appropriate entities that can help you. For
more information go to www.ftc.gov.
b. File a police report immediately. This shows credit providers that you were diligent and have started taking the necessary action to minimize the
loss. This also begins the investigation.
c. Call the three national credit reporting agencies IMMEDIATELY to place a fraud alert on your name and social security number. Once the alert is
placed, creditors know that your information was stolen and will contact you before creating an account in your name.
(1) Equifax, P.O. Box 74201, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241. Tel: (800) 685-1111.
(2) Experian, P.O. Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013. Tel: (888) 397-3742.
(3) Trans Union, P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022. Tel: (800) 916-8800.
d. If an account has already been established in your name fraudulently,
contact the creditor and instruct them to close the account. Inform the creditor
that you are a victim of identity theft.