Identity Theft

What it is:

Identity theft occurs when someone fraudulently uses your personal identifying information to obtain credit, take out a loan, open accounts, and get identification and numerous other things that involve pretending to be you. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country and the age group 18 – 29 reports the highest incidence of the crime.

Watch out for these signs:

  • Statements for your financial accounts stop arriving at the normal time without prior notice from your financial institution.
  • Bills start coming for things you did not buy, or charges show up on your credit card for purchases you did not make or bills that should be coming, stop coming.

How can you keep this from happening to you?

  • It is not always easy to recognize identity theft, so it is a good idea to obtain a copy of your credit report at least once a year. A copy of your credit report can be obtained for free at www.annualcreditreport.com.
  • Internet “phishing” scams are sure ways to lose personal information. A phishing scam is evident when someone emails you pretending that your bank account or other financial account is in jeopardy and you must go to a website and “confirm” or “verify” your account information.  To avoid the traps of phishing scams: look up the bank and call rather than using the link or a phone number provided by the email; type URLs into your browser rather than using a link provided in an email.
  • If you conduct financial business over the Internet, use personal firewalls and security software.
  • Do not provide personal information on an unsecured website.  Look for an “s” following http and a padlock at the bottom of the screen and check the web address in the browser. You might want to install a web browser tool bar to help protect you from known fraudulent websites.
  • Minimize the personal information you carry with you. Do not carry your Social Security card with you.   Guard passwords and pin numbers - don’t allow a stranger to see your pin number at the ATM.
  • Secure your personal information in your living area, leaving financial information lying around might be too much of a temptation for some people. 
  • Do not give personal information over the phone or on the Internet unless the connection is secure and you initiated the call or purchase.
  • Shred all personal and financial information, including old credit cards, pre-approved credit card offers, and credit card receipts, before throwing them away.
  • In case your credit cards, ATM cards, or checks are stolen or missing you should have a back-up list with account numbers, expiration dates, and contact information kept in a safe place.
  • Use passwords that are difficult to guess and contain a combination of letters and numbers.
  • Do not mail payments or accept credit cards at an unsecured mailbox; go to the post office.

What do you do if your identity is stolen?

Immediately contact your creditors, banks, credit bureau, local law enforcement agency and the Federal Trade Commission by phone and in writing. Let them know that you are a victim of identity theft. Keep a record of all communication you make with these agencies, including everything you send them, each person you talk to, and the date and time of all communication. Make sure you fill out a police report and retain a copy of it regarding the theft of your identity. 

Close any accounts an identity thief has opened in your name. Cancel any of your credit cards an identity thief is using. Place a credit freeze on your credit report so an identity thief can’t open any accounts or get credit in your name.

Refer to the Identity Theft Prevention and Repair Kit developed by the NM Attorney General’s Office for more information.

Useful Links

United States Securities and Exchange Commission offers information on preventing identity theft, and advice on avoiding investment fraud.
www.sec.gov/investor/pubs.shtml

Anti-Phishing Working Group provides detailed information on numerous phishing scams, you can also report phishing scams to them.
www.antiphishing.org

ScamBusters provides information on Internet scams, identity theft, and urban legends.
www.scambusters.org

Snopes has extensive information on urban legends of all types.
www.snopes.com

Identity Theft Resource Center www.idtheftcenter.org