Guide Read Me First: Password Protection and Identity Theft Prevention (2nd Edition)

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But be sure to carry your original Medicare card with you the first time you visit your health care provider.

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They are likely to want to make a photocopy of it for their files. This way, you are not carrying a document in your wallet that contains your SSN. Install a firewall on your home computer to prevent hackers from obtaining personal identifying and financial data from your hard drive. This is especially important if you connect to the Internet by DSL or cable modem. Install and update virus protection software to prevent a worm or virus from causing your computer to send out files or other stored information.

Password-protect files that contain sensitive personal data , such as financial account information. Create passwords that combine numbers and letters, upper and lower case. In addition, encrypt sensitive files. When shopping online, do business with companies that provide transaction security protection, and that have strong privacy and security policies. Before disposing of your computer, remove data by using a strong "wipe" utility program. Do not rely on the "delete" function to remove files containing sensitive information.

Never respond to "phishing" email messages. These appear to be from your bank, eBay, or PayPal. They instruct you to visit their web site, which looks just like the real thing. There, you are told to confirm your account information, provide your SSN, date of birth and other personal information. Legitimate financial companies never email their customers with such requests. These messages are the work of fraudsters attempting to obtain personal information in order to commit identity theft. Visit www. Be aware that file-sharing and file-swapping programs expose your computer to illegitimate access by hackers and fraudsters.

If you use such programs, make sure you comply with the law and know what you are doing. Install and update strong firewall and virus protection. Many file-sharing programs are downloaded by youngsters without the knowledge of their parents. There are software programs available that identify file sharing software and locate shared files on home computers.

For more information on safe surfing for families, visit www. To reduce the amount of personal information that is "out there," take these steps:. Remove your name from the marketing lists of the three credit reporting bureaus -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

This will limit the number of pre-approved offers of credit that you receive. These, when tossed into the garbage, are a potential target of identity thieves who use them to order credit cards in your name. Your name is added to name deletion lists used by nationwide marketers. You may also need to register for your state's "do not call" list, if it has one National Do Not Call Registry, www. There is no fee for opting out online. Have your name and address removed from the phone book and reverse directories.

Opt-out of the sale or sharing of your financial information when given the opportunity by your bank, credit card companies, insurance companies, and investment firms. Install a locked mailbox at your residence to deter mail theft. Or use a post office box or a commercial mailbox service. When you are away from home for an extended time, have your mail held at the Post Office, or ask a trusted neighbor to pick it up.

When ordering new checks, pick them up at the bank. Don't have them mailed to your home. If you have a post office box, use that address on your checks rather than your home address so thieves will not know where you live. When you pay bills, do not leave the envelopes containing your checks at your mailbox for the postal carrier to pick up, or in open boxes at the receptionist's desk in your workplace. If stolen, your checks can be altered and then cashed by the impostor.

It is best to mail bills and other sensitive items at the drop boxes inside the post office rather than neighborhood drop boxes. If you use a neighborhood drop box, always deposit the mail before the last pickup of the day. Each month, carefully review your credit card, bank and phone statements, including cellular phone bills, for unauthorized use. With fewer account statements and bills mailed to your home, you will reduce the risk of mail theft and identity theft. Do not toss pre-approved credit offers in your trash or recycling bin without first tearing them into very small pieces or shredding them with a crosscut shredder.

They can be used by "dumpster divers" to order credit cards in your name and mail them to their address. Do the same with other sensitive information like credit card receipts, phone bills, bank account statements, investment account reports, and so on. Home shredders can be purchased in many office supply stores. We recommend crosscut shredders. Use a gel pen for writing checks. Experts say that gel ink contains tiny particles of color that are trapped in the paper, making check washing more difficult.

Demand that financial institutions adequately safeguard your data. Password protect your accounts. Insist they destroy paper and magnetic records before discarding them. By not adopting responsible information-handling practices, they put their customers at risk for fraud. When you fill out loan or credit applications, find out how the company disposes of them.

Some auto dealerships, department stores, car rental agencies, and video stores have been known to be careless with customer applications. When you pay by credit card, ask the business how it stores and disposes of the forms. Avoid paying by credit card if you think the business is not careful. When paying with credit cards on the Internet, be sure the company uses secure transmission and storage methods.

Store canceled checks in a safe place. In the wrong hands, they could reveal a lot of information about you, including the account number, your phone number and driver's license number. If you rent a storage locker, take extra precautions when storing canceled checks, tax return information, and other sensitive financial information. Storage lockers are popular targets for robbers. Store personal information securely in your home , especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or have service work done in your home.

Use a locking file cabinet or safe. Any entity that handles personal information should train all its employees, from top to bottom, on responsible information-handling practices. Persuade the companies, government agencies, and nonprofit agencies with which you are associated to adopt privacy policies and conduct privacy training. Read Fact Sheet 12 on responsible information-handling, and our workplace identity theft prevention tips ,.

If your wallet or your Social Security number has been lost or stolen, place fraud alerts on your three credit reports right away. Instructions are provided in step one of Fact Sheet 17a. Your credit file is a snap shot in history that includes historical information regarding your ability to make timely, regular payments on your installment debts, credit balances, mortgage, care loan, utilities, department store cards etc. Then start all over again next January with Experian! Pay special attention to the literature that comes with your Equifax credit report.

Theirs are a little squirrely to understand. One can also order a credit report by calling the web site's telephone number: or by mailing in the completed Annual Credit Report Request Form to:. The three companies have set up one central website, toll-free telephone number, and mailing address through which you can order your free credit reports.

This is the meat of the report. It contains a list of your open and paid credit accounts and indicates any late payments reported by your creditors. Although it may seem a little tedious, it's essential that you read through this section very thoroughly. If you find any information that is incorrect or accounts that don't belong to you, you will want to submit a dispute letter to the credit-reporting agency.

IDENTITY THEFT: Credit Freeze vs Credit Monitoring (BEST FREE Protection?)

The basic format for the credit history section see sample is as follows:. Company Name - identifies the company that is reporting the information. Account Number - lists your account number with the company. Whose Account - Indicates who is responsible for the account and the type of participation you have with the account. Date Opened - This is the month and year you opened the account with the credit grantor. Months Reviewed - Lists the number of months the account history has been reported. Last Activity - Indicates the date of the last activity on the account.

This may be the date of your last payment or last charge.

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High Credit - Represents the highest amount charged or the credit limit. If the account is an installment loan, the original loan amount will be listed. Terms - For installment loans, the number of installments may be listed or the amount of the monthly payments.

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  8. Balance - Indicates the amount owed on the account at the time it was reported. Past Due - This column lists any amount past due at the time the information was reported. Status - A combination of letters and numbers are used to indicate the type of account and the timeliness of payments. Numbers are used to represent how current you are in your payments. Larger numbers up to 9 indicate that an account is past due - so the lower the number the better. Date reported - Indicates the last time information on this account was updated by your creditor. If you've had any accounts referred to collection agencies in the last seven years, this is where they will be reported.

    The name of the collection agency will be listed along with the amount you owe and, in some cases, their contact information. If a collection is listed on your report that doesn't look familiar to you, contact the credit bureau and submit a dispute letter. For your own piece of mind, you may also want to contact the collection agency to determine the nature of the account. Here's why. You may find out that the collection account is not yours. Perhaps it belongs to someone whose name or social security number is very similar to yours.

    If this is the case, ask the collection agency to acknowledge this fact in writing. They should send a copy of the letter to you AND the credit reporting agency so that the mistaken information can be cleared from your report. This section may also be referred to as Public Records. Here you'll find a listing of public record items obtained from local, state and federal courts that reflect your history of meeting financial obligations. These include:. Bankruptcy records: - Tax liens - Judgments - Collection accounts - Overdue child support in some states.

    This section consists primarily of former addresses and past employers as reported by your creditors. Inquiry Section. Contains a list of the businesses that have received your credit report in the last 24 months. If you find the names of businesses that sound unfamiliar, you should find out who they are and why they're looking at your credit! The credit-reporting agency may be able to help you with contact information.

    Remember, only companies that have received your written authorization should be able to check your credit history. The amount of time information is retained or the length of time that information remains in your file varies. Credit and collection accounts will be reported for 7 years from the date of the last activity with the original creditor.

    If you've filed a Chapter 7 or Chapter 11 bankruptcy, this information will be reported for 10 years from the date filed. All other courthouse records will be reported for 7 years from date filed. After you have reviewed your credit report you should spend an equal amount of time reviewing reports from another related industry. National Specialty Consumer Reporting Firms collect non-financial information that if wrong could create almost as many problems as an error in your credit profile.

    Experts suggest that everyone place a security freeze on their credit history. So how do we Freeze our credit history? The letter looks something like this:. The Security Freeze Work Packet. The above letters are simply a fill in the blanks letter prepared in advance. Why bother to freeze your credit history? How does a Security freeze work?

    With a security freeze we setup a situation where they the credit grantors needs a user I. Does my spouse have to send the same letter to all three credit reporting agencies in order to have their file frozen too? Remember your Look-A-Like will not have this secret Pin! So he or she will not be opening or extending credit in your name. If you have already become a victim of identity theft, here in California, you are entitled to a FREE security freeze from the Big 3 credit bureaus. Each credit bureau has a different method for allowing you to by-pass your security freeze.

    Remember I said a security freeze means your credit file cannot be seen by potential creditor s well that is almost true. The credit history industry left a few holes in the Fair Credit Reporting Act legislation big enough to drive their trucks through. They can still see records to mail out new offers of credit to your home, providing you do not opt out of their marketing plans. Credit bureaus must place the freeze no later than 5 days business days after receiving your request.

    They have 3 business days in which to lift a security freeze at your request. However, do not expect to receive any correspondence for about 4 to 6 weeks. While your security freeze is in effect, new creditors can not see you credit score - which also means no new credit for you! For a listing of form letters maintaiined by the above website, visit their Doument Catalogue Page for up to date forms.

    Once there, you will see a link at the very bottom of the page for the following form letters available for you to use. Equifax : Experian : Trans Union : Their Site Map. California is the first state to have an agency dedicated to promoting and protecting the privacy rights of consumers. Now located in the California Office of Information Security and Privacy Protection, the Office of Privacy Protection was created by legislation in and opened in Its mission is to identify consumer problems in the privacy area and encourage the development of fair information practices.

    This California State Government Office of Privacy web site also has consumer information sheets on:. Trustee UST - www. There are three different organizations you will want to contact to get on their Do No Call list. Most telemarketers should not call your number once it has been on the registry for 31 days.

    If they do, you can file a complaint at this Website. You can register your home or mobile phone for free. Your registration will not expire. Go to ww. The Do-Not-Call registry does not prevent all unwanted calls. The National Do-Not-Call list protects home voice or personal wireless phone numbers only. While you may be able to register a business number, your registration will not make telephone solicitations to that number unlawful.

    Similarly, registering either a home or business fax number will not make sending a fax advertisement to that number unlawful, but the FCC has separate rules that prohibit unsolicited fax advertisements under most circumstance. And thirdly , stop the selling of your information, your personal identifiers to junk mail brokerages.

    Note: since the federal government began maintaining a National Do Not Call list, some states have discontinued their list. Remind your children, to never put personal information about themselves or of their family on the Internet. You are the parent here! Be cautious with peer-to-peer file sharing ppe. People on the web can pass themselves off as just about anyone and you have no way of knowing if they are who they say they are.

    Erase your name from Internet online directories. Most online directories provide opt-out opportunities www. Best Buy. Consider using a one-time credit card for shopping online and or consider using one-time use credit cards on the internet. Junk e-mail. Make sure you use a router and firewall protection too. While in public places and online look over your shoulder occasionally. Install, use, and continually update anti-virus software. Virus software that is out of date in just that -out of date and useless.

    Secure your laptop while traveling on airplanes and maintain a visual line of sight on it where and when possible. Tracing programs include zTrace www. Encrypt your confidential data before you leave on a trip. Programs such as Pretty Good Privacy www. Back up your data before you leave for you trip. Make a CD or 2 to leave locked up at home. Keep it on a separate CD. Never let anyone see you input a password on your computer. Just don't do it. Fraudsters love to access these public computers.

    They download key logging software or attach key logging hardware that records every key typed in and every web site accessed. You have no idea that your keystrokes are captured. If you typed in passwords and confidential information, he can steal your identity and transfer money out of your accounts! Use a reliable pay service such as PayPal.

    If it is Identity Theft you will want to report it to the FTC as well, they maintain a national databases accessible to law enforcement and civilian agencies. Get on an e-mail notification service like Microsoft so that you know to download all new patches in Windows and other programs you use. Delete cookies or use anti-cookie software. Cookies can often capture you user ID and password.

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    To rid your PC of spyware and popup adware, download free software called Spybot. You can get this at www. There is also Spy Cop www. Rid yourself of pop-ups or adware by going to this site and install their popup blocker. But you should not be putting your home address, home phone number, personal private email and other personal data in a signature file or on a non-business related web page. In April , a survey conducted by the Gartner technology research firm estimated that 52 million American adults had received phishing emails within the past year. Of those surveyed who received such emails, 3 percent, representing about 1.

    That is a pretty good return on investment. Never answer any emails that asks either directly, indirectly, or through a web site for any of your personal identifying information. To find out about more of these financial scams, go to the United States Secret Service web site at www. If you receive any of these letters, forward them on to the Secret Service, the FBI, or the Federal Trade Commission, but do not ever reply to the sender. Forward this and other types of spam to Spam uce.

    Think of your private email address as having public access. Take extra precautions to hide on the Internet. Use the products found at www. Anonymous surfing enables anonymous web browsing which hides your IP address so online snoops are unable to track the sites you visit and build profiles on your internet activities. Anonymous Internet connections are available for a price You may wish to use Anonymiser software.

    Go to www. Don't forget to shred your computer generated, paper personal and confidential information before discarding it. Be leery of anyone you have met exclusively on the web or Internet. Because they may not be who the say they are and you have limited abilities to verify this information. I could throw up a web site and pretend to be just anyone and how would you know to contrary? Think of all that information on one of your personal checks, so leave that check book and unnecessary credit cards at home. If you travel for business, make sure that the personal and private information on your laptop is password protected and contained in encrypted files.

    Or better yet, let's not put that data on your laptops harddrive to begin with. Have your trusted neighbor pick it up daily. Guard your information Personal Identifiers in public places as if it were cold hard cash, because for someone else they can translate that information into cash.

    First buy Mari Frank's other book if you have been the victim of Identity Theft. It will provide you with a step by step process for recovering your good name and credit while erasing the damage done to your credit history. Remember, a credit report is just a snapshot of your history - your ability to use credit and pay it back in a timely manner as well as utility bills and other installment debt. And Secondly , call all three Credit Bureaus and place a fraud alert on your credit reports.

    The first credit agency to receive your call will notify the other two credit agencies, but do you want to rely on them. Equifax: , www. Box , Fullerton, CA Thirdly , Close out all your credit accounts involved and have new credit cards issued with new account numbers.

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    Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each company. Follow up in writing , and include copies NOT originals of supporting documents. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so that you can document what the company received and when. And needless to say, keep a file of your correspondence and enclosures. It is import to note that Mari Frank leaves no stone unturned. She will organize you, prioritize your work, she will have you mailing the right letter at the right time to the right people. She effectively holds your hand through this entire ordeal, from beginning to end.

    Because everyone's personal situation of identity theft will be different, the application of Mari Frank's second book will be a little different for each and everyone of you. I would also Google the geographic area in which you believe the theft took place and contact the region's local law enforcement. The Federal Trade Commission maintains a national database accessible to law enforcement and civilian agencies.

    If your social security number has been compromised, you will want to report your situation to the the Social Security Administration, and , If your impostor got arrested and or convicted of a crime, you will want to notify the California State Department of Justice to register in their ID Theft database. Contact them if your name has some how become "mistakenly associated with the record of a criminal" activity. After you have contacted the Credit Reporting Agencies, ordered a copy of your credit history, called your local law enforcement, and maybe the FTC you also might want to do the following depending on your specific situation:.

    As you should know by now, to place a Fraud Alert on your credit history, you need to pick up the telephone and call one of the three CRA's found here. Remember, you only need to contact one of them, as the CRA will automatically contact the other two for you. There are two types of fraud alerts: an initial alert, and an extended alert. An initial alert stays on your credit report for at least 90 days.

    You may have to remind them of their obligations. These offers would be unsolicited offers of credit you receive in the mail. Your initial or first fraud alert is good for only 3 three months, remember an extended alert is good for seven 7 years. An extended alert stays on your credit report for 7 seven years. When a business sees the alert on your credit report, they must take reasonable efforts to verify your identity before issuing you credit or at least they are supposed too. A file with a fraud alert on it should be a big red flag to the big three credit reporting agencies. As a part of this verification process, the business may try to contact you directly.

    To compensate for possible delays, you may wish to include a cell phone number, where you can be reached easily, in your alert. Remember to keep all contact information in your alert current and up-to-date. If the identity thief has made charges or debits on your accounts, or on faudulently opened accounts, ask the company for the forms to dispute those transactions.

    For new unauthorized accounts, ask if the company accepts the ID Theft Affidavit. Once you have resolved your identity theft dispute with the company, ask for a letter stating that the company has closed the disputed accounts and has discharged the fraudulent debts. This letter is your best proof if errors relating to this account reappear on your credit report or you are contacted again about the fraudulent debt.

    A credit report is simply a snapshot in time of your history of borrowing and a history of making payments. A history of your use of credit that has been extended to you by your various creditors. Already typed and waiting to be completed and mailed by you. Mari shows you which letters to send to whom and when and why and what type of response to expect. She includes necessary log sheets, affidavits and housekeeping paperwork and logs to track your progress.

    In excruciating detail Mari holds your hand and even shows you how to guard against mental issues during this stressful time in your life. And it is stressful! This second book answers the questions: Where do I start? What do I send to whom and when and how. What do I ask for?

    How long should I expect to wait for replies to my correspondences. What to save, what to through out. Copies of completed applications at the businesses your impostor stole your identity may also prove that you are a victim.

    Protecting Your Social Security Number from Identity Theft | Social Security Matters

    For example, you may be able to show that the signature on an application is not yours. These documents may contain information about the identity thief stole your identity and will be valuable to law enforcement. Remember, by law, companies must give you a copy of the application or other business transaction records relating to your identity theft -if you submit your request in writing. Be sure to ask the company representative where you should mail your request.

    Companies must provide these records at no charge to you within 30 days of receipt of your request and your supporting documents. This is one of your rights as a victim. What Constitutes Proof of Your identity. This may be a photocopy of a government-issued ID card, the same type of information the identity thief used to open or access the account with.

    Or, it may be the type of information the company usually requests from applicants or customers, and police reports including a completed affidavit which can be found in both of Mari Franks books. You may find that most federal and state agencies, and some local police or sheriff departments, offer only "automated" reports - a report that does not require a face-to-face meeting with a law enforcement officer. Automated reports may be submitted online, or by telephone or mail.

    If you have a choice, do not use an automated report. It's more difficult for the consumer reporting company or information provider to verify the information. Unless you are asking a consumer reporting company to place an extended fraud alert on your credit report, you will probably have to provide additional information or documentation when you use an automated report.

    Accurate and complete records will help you to resolve your identity theft quicker than sloppy incomplete record keeping. Follow Mari Franks instructions, keep a telephone log, buy enough three ring binders etc. With Mari's guidance you will have a plan when you contact each company. Don't assume that the person you talking to will give you all the information or help you need.

    Prepare a list of questions to ask the representative, as well as information about your identity theft. Don't end the call until you're sure you understand everything you've been told. If you need more help, ask to speak to a supervisor. Write down the name of everyone you talk to, what he or she tells you, and the date the conversation occurred.

    She recently completed Rating Veterans Service Representative training. Posted on Dec 5, December 5, views. Posted on May 11, May 11, 1k views. Posted on Feb 11, February 11, views. Posted on Jan 6, January 29, views. Good morning this is 2nd time around the first one was disappear on the screen. I never used yet my Certificate of Eligibility for Loan. I am looking for one to purchase. Bolster your line of defense by adding identity verification Notify creditors to take extra steps to verify your identity before extending any credit.

    Add Fraud Alert There are three types of fraud alerts: one year, seven year and active duty. What type of fraud alert do you need? You are concerned about becoming a victim of fraud or ID theft. You have been a victim of fraud and have an identity theft report. Benefits Lenders will be notified to take extra steps to verify your identity before extending credit. One free credit report at TransUnion, Equifax and Experian Lenders will be notified to take extra steps to verify your identity before extending credit.

    Two free credit reports at TransUnion, Equifax and Experian in the first 12 months Lenders will be notified to take extra steps to verify your identity before extending credit. Next Steps Add Fraud Alert. Add Fraud Alert. Remove Fraud Alert You can take the fraud alert off your credit report at any time.

    Remove Alert. Get Fraud Help. You have questions, we have answers. Search or browse our FAQS below.