PROTECT YOUR IDENTITY FROM THEFT!
Last month in Wisconsin Energy Cooperative
News, I promised to talk more about identity theft, one of the
fastest growing crimes in Wisconsin and the nation. Identity
theft occurs when a criminal obtains identifying information
such as your name, address, date of birth, social security number,
mother’s maiden name and other personal identifying information,
and uses it to illegally open credit cards, telephone calling
cards and bank accounts in your name. This is a difficult crime
to prosecute because enforcement is usually left to the local
police and the criminal may be many states--or even countries--away.
Police departments are already strapped investigating other
crimes and identity theft, in part because the crime’s
devastating personal impact is not well understood, often goes
to the bottom of the investigation pile.
Identify Theft Warning Signs
The warning signs are: (1) your monthly credit
card and bank statements stop arriving, (2) you are denied credit
when you believe your credit is in good shape, (3) you start
receiving bills from companies you are not doing business with,
and (4) credit card agencies start contacting you to collect
debts that do not belong to you.
Identify Theft Protections
You can protect yourself from identity theft
by following these seven easy steps. First, immediately contact
your credit card company or bank if you do not receive your
monthly statements. Second, shred all personal documents before
you put them in the trash. Third, do not give out personal information
to someone who called you over the telephone, who contacted
you on the Internet, or on a cellular or cordless phone. Fourth,
do not carry your social security number in your wallet or purse
and do not carried unnecessary credit cards. Fifth, do not put
your address, telephone number or driver’s license number
on a credit card sales receipt or on a check. Sixth, mail payments
and other sensitive financial documents at the post office--do
not leave them in your mailbox for pickup. Seventh, only use
your credit card on the Internet if it will be encrypted. Look
for a padlock icon on the site and check for security assurances.
Finally, you should review your credit report
every year if possible. You can call the three major credit
reporting agencies tollfree to order your credit report. The
order will usually costs less than $10 and is free if you have
recently been denied credit or a job. Call Equifax at 1/800-685-1111,
Experian at 1/888-397-3742, and TransUnion at 1/800-916-8800.
You can get an excellent brochure on identity
theft distributed for free by the CBM Credit Foundation by sending
a self-addressed stamped envelope to: CBM Credit Foundation,
Inc., 2509 S. Stoughton Road, Suite 300, Madison, WI 53716-3319.
Next month I will focus on telemarketing and
how you can eliminate much of the junk mail and telemarketing
calls you receive.