In this age of instant communication and electronics, it can be easy to forget that we all need to guard our private information. Identity theft is a major issue that affects many Americans every year. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as nine million Americans have their identities stolen each year, leading to wide-ranging consequences. Identity theft can lead to consumer credit card fraud, government document fraud, and the creation of counterfeit checks, to name a few.
These consequences can be avoided by following some basic tips. Make sure that you are properly disposing sensitive documents that contain your personal information, such as credit card or social security numbers. This can be done by shredding or tearing your important papers. Identity thieves are most likely to find your personal information on undestroyed papers and through unlawful solicitations. Be cautious of telephone solicitations, especially those offering to help you with lowering your home mortgage interest rate. Your bank will never call to ask for your social security number, routing number, or account number in this manner. Do not give personal information out over the phone, unless you have initiated the contact and you are familiar with the person or organization you are talking to. Additionally, if you use the Internet to make purchases, buy from reputable online vendors and be wary of e-mails that request personal information.
Warranty cards are one of the ways many companies collect your personal information. Carefully read the warranty stipulations of any product you may have purchased to see if it is necessary to return this card. If filling out a warranty card is required, you are not obligated to supply any information beyond your name, address, product serial number and a copy of the receipt to verify the date of purchase. If you receive unsolicited catalogs or mailings, look for a toll free number on the publication. Call the organization and request that you be removed from their mailing list. Keep in mind that catalogs may supply your information to many different mailing lists, and ask that you be removed from any mailing lists you do not want to receive mailings from.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you must move quickly to place a fraud alert on your credit reports, which can be done by contacting any one of the three major consumer reporting companies. These companies are Equifax (1-800-525-6285), Experian (1-888-397-3742) and TransUnion (1-800-680-7289). Make sure you also file a police report, and specify that you are filing an identity theft complaint. An additional filing with the Federal Trade Commission can be done by calling 1-877-ID-THEFT. Finally, close accounts that you believe have been used illegally by an identity thief.
The Federal Trade Commission has an outstanding online resource available if you desire more information on identity theft and related topics. It can be found at: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/index.html. Additionally, the Indiana Attorney General can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-382-5516 and also has an online resource page available at: http://www.indianaconsumer.com/consumer_guide/identity_theft.asp.
As your state representative, I am committed to insuring Hoosiers have the best information at hand in order to combat identity theft. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 1-800-382-9841, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write me at 200 W. Washington St. Indianapolis, IN 46204.