Protecting Your Identity
Believe it or not, there are some people out there that want to be you. They don't actually want to live your life, but they do want to use your identity to buy things for themselves while sticking you with the bill. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has noted that you can't prevent identity theft, but you can minimize your risk by managing your personal information wisely.
The FTC suggests the following six steps to guard against identity theft:
1. Before revealing personal identifying information, find out how it will be used and if it will be shared with others. Ask if you have a choice about the use of your information: can you choose to have it kept confidential?
2. Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if bills do not arrive on time.
3. Give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary. Ask to use other types of identifiers when possible.
4. Minimize the identification information and the number of cards you carry to what you actually need. If your I.D. or credit cards are lost or stolen, notify the creditors by phone immediately, and call the credit bureaus to ask that a "fraud alert" be placed in your file.
5. Order a copy of your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies every year. Make sure it's accurate and includes only those activities you've authorized.
6. Keep items with personal information in a safe place; tear them up when you don't need them anymore. Make sure charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, bank checks and statements, expired charge cards, and credit offers you get in the mail are disposed of appropriately.
If you are currently a victim of identity theft, the Kansas Attorney General suggests that you do the following. First, contact the fraud department of each of the three major credit bureaus (i.e. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Next, contact the creditors of any accounts that were tampered with or fraudulently opened. Immediately close any accounts that have been tampered with and open new accounts with new personal identification numbers and passwords. Finally, file a report with your local police or the police department in the community where the identity theft took place.
If you have already been harmed by identity theft, or have other legal problems, please feel free to contact the Fort Riley Legal Assistance office at 239-3117. For additional information on identity theft, you can visit the FTC website at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.