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Identity Theft - 10 Tips to Protect Your Credit Card


Academic year: 2021

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Identity Theft – the Facts

Colorado ranked eleventh (11th) among all states in the number of

identity theft complaints per capita filed in 2011.

The age group filing the most identity theft complaints was 20-29,

followed by 30-39.

Colorado ranked first (1st) among all states in the number of fraud

complaints per capita filed in 2011.

Warning Signs

Your purse or wallet is stolen.

Your bank account is overdrawn or there is unusual activity on

your credit card.

Mail you are expecting doesn’t arrive, especially related to

financial matters; bills you paid are still showing due.

You apply for a credit card or loan and are denied.

You check your credit reports and find accounts you did not

open, or a collection agency contacts you for an account you

did not open.

You provided personal information to someone who called you

on the phone or sent you an e-mail requesting that information.

Reducing Your Risk


1. Carry any document with sensitive information in a close fitting pouch or in your front pocket, not in your purse or back pocket. Sensitive documents include driver’s license, credit & debit cards, checks, car registration and anything with your Social Security Number.

2. Reduce the number of items you carry in your purse or billfold to only what you need on a regular basis.



3. If possible, remove anything from your wallet containing your Social Security Number (SSN), including your Social Security card, Medicare card, military ID card. If your SSN is on your Driver’s License – get a new license.

4. Shred all mail and documents that contain Social Security, bank and credit card numbers.

5. Don’t give any part of your Social Security, credit card or bank account numbers over the phone, e-mail or Internet, unless you have initiated the contact to a verifiable company or financial institution.

6. Request copies of your credit report from all three credit-reporting services annually, or more often if identification has been lost or stolen. (See page 17, in this HANDBOOK for credit reporting agency information)

7. Promptly check bank and credit card statements the day they arrive for errors and unauthorized transactions. If there is a problem contact the bank or card issuer immediately.

8. Empty your mailbox quickly so that criminals do not have an opportunity to snatch credit card applications, convenience checks and boxes of new checks. If you are going to be away from home, have a neighbor collect your mail or call the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 to request a vacation hold. You can also go to the U.S. Postal Service Web site at www.usps.com to put your mail on hold.

9. Mail bills to be paid at the Post Office, not in your mailbox or in street corner postal boxes. Better yet, use automated payment plans or pay bills online.

10. Be more selective about when and where you give personal information. Don’t be hesitant to ask why someone needs your Social Security or driver’s license number, etc.

11. Secure personal information in your home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having service work done in your home.

12. Know when your credit card, bank and investment account statements typically arrive in the mail. If they are more than two days late call the issuer immediately.

13. Notify the credit reporting agencies of the death of a relative or friend to block the misuse of the deceased person’s credit (see page 12for instructions).

14. Call your bank and credit card customer service and ask to “opt out” of ALL marketing programs, including ‘convenience’ checks mailings.



15. Call the Credit Card Offer Opt Out Line to reduce number of credit card solicitations you receive (see page 17).

16. Shred pre-approved credit card offers, convenience checks and any

document containing sensitive information, preferably with a crosscut shredder. 17. Have paychecks, benefit and pension checks direct deposited to your

account. Ask the IRS, insurance companies and others to send refund payments electronically, not through the mail.

18. Do not keep your auto registration, insurance card, checkbook, receipts, or other identifying information in your car. Carry them in a secure manner on your person. Do not leave your car unlocked or unattended.

19. Contact the Social Security Administration if you suspect your Social Security Number has been compromised (see page 19). Currently the Social Security has suspended issuing Social Security Earnings Statements (02/12).

20. Be cautious whom you ask to housesit or pick up your mail. A house sitter can rummage through your files; neighbors can swipe your statements and convenience checks.

21. Lock it up. Use locking file cabinets for your financial paperwork and keep your checkbook in there also. Keep the files locked anytime you are not using them.


1. Don’t routinely carry your checkbook in public. Carry only the checks you need for the moment.

2. Notify your bank immediately if checks are lost or stolen. 3. Have new checks delivered to your bank for pick up by you.

4. Have checks imprinted with your first and middle initials and last name. Have only name and address imprinted on your checks. Do NOT include your Social Security, driver’s license and phone numbers.

5. Drop off mail containing checks at the Post Office, preferably inside. If using your personal mailbox, put mail out shortly before the carrier picks up your mail. 6. Consider using on-line bill paying or automatic withdrawals rather than checks.




1. Reduce the number of credit cards you carry in public. 2. Sign new cards as soon as you receive them.

3. Don’t keep PIN numbers with your cards.

4. Establish a routine when using your credit or debit card, and then follow that routine every time you use the card.

5. Make a list of credit card numbers, expiration dates, and the contact information for the issuer and keep in a safe place in the event your cards are stolen.

6. Try to use ATM’s only at bank locations. Be wary of ATM’s in remote locations. 7. Use the same credit card for all on-line purchases. It makes fraudulent use of the card easier to spot.

8. Report lost or stolen debit/check cards immediately. Federal law limits your responsibility for fraudulent transactions in your bank account to:

$50.00 if you report the loss within two (2) business days.

$500.00 if you report the loss between two (2) and sixty (60) days.

If you wait more than sixty (60) days, you could lose all the money that was taken from your account after the end of the sixty (60) days and before you report your card missing. If you report the loss before the card is used, you will not be liable for any fraudulent charges. Your bank may give you a better deal, but you must make a good faith effort to notify them of the loss.

9. Examine your credit card and bank statements for any unauthorized

transactions the day they arrive. If you fail to report a fraudulent charge to your credit card within sixty (60) days after it first appears on your statement, you are liable for that charge.

10. Pay attention to your billing cycles and follow-up with creditors immediately if a bill does not show up within a couple of days of its normal delivery time. A missing bill could be the first indication that your identity is being stolen.

11. Take all credit card/debit card receipts with you. Never leave them behind at the merchant’s. Check each receipt and shred any that contain your entire

account number. Federal law now requires that merchants may not print more than five digits of your account number on your receipt. This only applies to receipts that are electronically printed.



12. If you are making a purchase using a “card” and the card will be out of your sight for any length of time, always use a credit card, not a debit card. If the card is used fraudulently while it is out of your possession, you have more protection with the credit card than you do the debit card. Safer yet – pay with cash.

13. When giving your credit or debit card to a clerk/waiter/etc., check the card before you put it away to insure that your card was the one returned to you. 14. Cancel credit cards that you do not use on a regular basis.

Computer Precautions

1. Don’t respond to e-mails asking to submit personal data. The message might include fancy graphics, trademark symbols and an authentic-looking e-mail address, but all of that can be faked. Here are some ways to tell:

- The message tries to scare you by saying your account needs to be verified or updated.

- The message threatens negative action -- canceling your account, for example, if you fail to take the requested action immediately.

- The message asks you to click on a link to update your information or to submit information through a button. Legitimate e-mails from companies will not contain a link, but will ask you to close out the message, open the company’s Internet Web site, and use your name and password to update the required information. Never click on a link provided in the message!

- The message appears to come from a company with whom you do business, but it calls you "Dear Customer" instead of by your name.

No legitimate company or agency will send an e-mail asking you to verify personal information.

2. Do not respond to e-mails offering employment, which requires you to transfer funds for the “employer” or to receive and reship merchandise.

3. Do not respond to e-mails that declare you are a winner in a lottery or

sweepstakes, even if the notice contains a check to pay taxes or fees. The check is an excellent counterfeit, and if you cash or deposit the funds, your bank will demand that you return the money within a week or two.

4. Delete unknown or questionable e-mails without opening.

5. Every computer should be equipped with virus and spyware protection software. Be sure to keep your virus protection program updated.



6. Use a firewall program, especially if you use a high-speed connection like cable, DSL or T-1, which connects your computer 24 hours a day. The firewall program allows you to stop uninvited guests from accessing your computer. Without it, hackers can take over your computer, access personal information

stored on it, or use your computer to commit crimes. 7. Use a secure browser - software that encrypts or scrambles information you

send over the Internet - to guard the security of on-line transactions. Be sure your browser has up-to-date encryption capabilities by using the latest version available from the manufacturer. When submitting information, look for https or the "lock" icon to ensure your information is secure during transmission.



REMEMBER: You are not responsible for losses from ID theft. Your

credit should not be permanently affected and no legal action should

be taken. Cooperate, but don’t be coerced into paying a fraudulent


ATM Precautions

Be suspicious of any stand-alone ATM. Yes, there are plenty of

legitimate ones, but it can be tough for a layperson to tell which

ones feed information to thieves rather than cash to you. You'll

definitely want to avoid any ATM that isn't bolted to the side of a

building or secured inside a facility. Real ATMs are heavy and

have money safes, so they're not going to be easy to move. Also

beware of stand-alone ATMs that advertise "no fees" since

legitimate owners of stand-alone ATMs have to charge fees to

make money.

Avoid bank ATMs if the access door is broken. If you normally

have to use your ATM card to unlock a door to get to the ATM

and the lock is broken or the door is propped open, don't go in.

Someone could have forced open the door to install a skimmer.

Beware of "out of service" signs. If there are two ATMs and one

has an "out of service" sign, it could be legit -- or it could be

trying to get you to use the other ATM, which has been


Give the card slot a good yank. Put your hand on the slot where

your card goes in and give it a push. A real one won't give way,

while a skimmer often does. If the card slot looks strange at all,

find another ATM.

Report "malfunctions" immediately. If you get an error message

instead of money, contact your bank right away.

Monitor your transaction activity. It doesn't matter how busy you

are. You can still take a few minutes every week to log on to your

accounts and look over your transactions. You'll want to report

bogus transactions right away, since your liability for fraud is

waived only if you spot the problems within a couple of months.

These recommendations are taken from Liz Weston's award-winning

columns on MSN.com, which appear every Monday and Thursday,

exclusively on MSN Money.



Your Consumer and Victim Rights

Federal Rights

 You have the right to request a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three credit reporting agencies (see page 17).

 If you dispute credit report information, credit bureaus must resolve your dispute within 30 days and send you written notice of the results of the investigation within five days of its completion, including a copy of the credit report, if it has changed.

 You have the right to “Opt Out” of your credit card company’s and bank’s marketing programs, including “convenience checks” sent on your credit card account by calling the customer service number for each card company or bank.

 You have the right to “Opt Out” of credit card solicitations by calling the Credit Card Offer “Opt Out Line” (see page 17). The automated system will ask you to enter your Social Security Number, but that is okay because you are making the phone call.

 You have the right to dispute unauthorized checking transactions within 30 days of receiving your bank statement with $50 liability protection.

 You have the right to dispute unauthorized credit card transactions within 60 days of receiving your statement with $50 liability protection.

Colorado Rights

 If you are a victim of identity theft, you have the right to request a courtesy police report in the community in which you live or in the community where you know the theft occurred.

 You have the right to have your Social Security Number removed from your driver’s license and health insurance cards.

 You have the right to sue an identity theft perpetrator for damage to reputation or credit rating, punitive damages, and attorney fees, regardless of whether the perpetrator was criminally convicted.

You have the right to ask businesses, non-profit and government agencies about their policy for disposal of personal identifying documents.

 You have the right to have your credit report frozen by the three Credit Bureaus (see page 14).



Must I provide a Social Security number (SSN) to any

business or government agency that asks?

Reprinted from the Social Security Administration Website,


The Social Security Number (SSN) was originally devised to keep an

accurate record of each individual’s earnings, and to subsequently monitor

benefits paid under the Social Security program. However, use of the SSN

as a general identifier has grown to the point where it is the most commonly

used and convenient identifier for all types of record-keeping systems in the

United States.

Specific laws require a person to provide his/her SSN for certain purposes.

While we cannot give you a comprehensive list of all situations where an

SSN might be required or requested, an SSN is required/requested by:

Internal Revenue Service for tax returns and federal loans.

Employers for wage and tax reporting purposes.

States for the school lunch program.

Banks for monetary transactions.

Veterans Administration as a hospital admission number.

Department of Labor for workers’ compensation.

Department of Education for Student Loans.

States to administer any tax, general public assistance, motor vehicle

or driver’s license law within its jurisdiction.

States for child support enforcement, and for support to needy


States for commercial driver’s licenses.

States for Food Stamps, Medicaid, and Unemployment




The Privacy Act regulates the use of SSN’s by government agencies.

When a Federal, State, or local government agency asks an individual to

disclose his or her Social Security number, the Privacy Act requires the

agency to inform the person of the following: the statutory or other authority

for requesting the information; whether disclosure is mandatory or

voluntary; what uses will be made of the information; and the

consequences, if any, for failure to provide the information.

If a business or other enterprise asks you for your SSN, you can refuse to

give it. However, that may mean doing without the purchase or service for

which your number was requested. For example, utility companies and

other services ask for a Social Security Number, but do not need it; they

can do a credit check or identify the person in their records by alternative


Giving your number is voluntary, even when you are asked for the number

directly. If requested, you should ask why your number is needed, how your

number will be used, what law requires you to give your number and what

the consequences are if you refuse. The answers to these questions can

help you decide if you want to give your Social Security Number. The

decision is yours.

For more detailed information, we recommend the publication at:

http://www. socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10002.html.





In addition to notifying the Social Security Administration of the death of a loved one, it is equally important that you notify the three credit reporting bureaus of that person’s passing. When you notify the bureaus, the deceased person’s credit history is inactivated so that no one can use the deceased’s Social Security Number and accompanying credit history to obtain credit.

To notify the credit bureaus of a death, you will need:

1. A copy of the person’s death certificate. 2. A brief note like the following:

To Whom It May Concern:

This letter is to inform you of the death of (full name of the deceased), Social Security Number (list deceased’s Social Security Number). If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact me.

Thank you for your assistance. Sincerely,

(Your Signature) (Your Name)

(Your mailing address) (Your phone number)

Send a copy of the death certificate and your letter to each of the credit bureaus listed below:

Equifax Office of Fraud Assistance P.O. Box 105069

Atlanta, GA 30348

Experian Office of Fraud Assistance P.O. Box 9530

Allen, TX 75013

Trans Union Office of Fraud Assistance P.O. Box 6790



Credit File Security Freeze

Coloradoans can now put a “security freeze” on their credit reports. A

freeze means your file cannot be shared with potential creditors without

your permission. If your files are frozen, even someone with your name

and Social Security Number will not be able to get credit in your name.

How do I place a security freeze?

Instructions for residents of each state are slightly different. Fortunately, the

three credit bureaus have fairly simple grids on their Web sites explaining

what the costs are and the process is. Remember, you'll have to get a

freeze at all three bureaus.


General info:


State-by-state information


To get a freeze, Equifax wants you to send a certified letter with seven

specific elements to Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta,

Georgia 30348. The elements are spelled out clearly on the general

information page, but they are, basically -- name, address, date of birth,

SSN, utility bill for proof of address, payment and a police report if you are

a victim.


General info and state-by state information


To get state-specific information, scroll to the bottom of the page and pick

your state from the drop-down menu. Before giving you the information

you need, Experian will warn you that a security freeze may make your

credit life very difficult. Take that with a grain of salt, and then pick your

state. You'll send the request by certified or overnight mail to Experian,

P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013. Again, the recipe is listed on the firm's

Web site, but it will call for a name, SSN, date of birth, current and past

addresses dating back two years, a copy of your driver's license, and one

utility bill.




General info and state-by-state information



Send your freeze requests to Trans Union/Fraud Victim Assistance

Department, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834. A few state residents

can call instead of write -- check the link above. Trans Union wants the

following on the letter: name, address, Social Security Number, a copy of

your driver's license and payment.

Do I have to freeze my file with all three credit bureaus?

Yes. Different credit issuers may use different credit bureaus.

Can I open new credit accounts if my files are frozen?

Yes, if you want to open a new credit account, you can lift the freeze for a

specific creditor or a specific period of time. When you freeze your files,

you will receive a unique PIN from each of the agencies, as well as

instructions on how to lift the freeze. You can lift the freeze by phone using

your PIN and proper identification.

Is there a fee to freeze my credit files?

The initial security freeze is free of charge; however, the temporary or

permanent removal of the freeze may cost up to $10 per agency.

How long does it take for the freeze to be in effect and how long

does it take for a freeze to be lifted?

Credit bureaus must place the freeze no later than five business days after

receiving your written request. A freeze must be lifted no later than three

business days after receiving your request.

What will a creditor who requests my file see if it is frozen? Can

someone get my credit score?

A creditor will see a message that the file is frozen and will


be able to

get your credit score.

Can I order my free credit report if the file is frozen?

Yes, free credit reports are still available at






Can anyone see my credit file if it is frozen?

Yes, certain entities will have access to it. Your report can still be released

to existing creditors or to collection agencies acting on their behalf. They

can use it to review or collect on your account. Other creditors may use

your information to make offers of credit unless you opt out of such offers

(see page 15). Government agencies may have access for child support

payments or taxes, for investigating Medicare/Medicaid fraud, or in

response to a court/administrative order, subpoena, or search warrant for

delinquent taxes or unpaid court orders.

Does freezing stop pre-approved credit offers?

No. To stop pre-approved credit solicitations, you need to “opt out” at


or call 1-888-567-8688. It’s good for five years or

you can make it permanent. You will need to provide your Social Security


Can an employer do a background check on me if I have a freeze

on my credit file?

No. You would have to lift the freeze to allow a background check just as

you would to apply for credit.

What’s the difference between a fraud alert and a freeze?

You would place a fraud alert on your credit file if you have been a victim of

fraud or believe someone may attempt to use your credit report

fraudulently. With a fraud alert, a potential creditor can still obtain your

report, but they will be alerted that fraud may be occurring and to take extra

precautions. A fraud alert can slow your ability to get new credit. A freeze

means your credit file cannot be seen by potential creditors or employers

unless you give your consent.



Consumer Protection Resources


To request a FREE copy of your Credit Report from all three credit

reporting agencies, use one of the following: (You will need to give your Social Security Number).

Website: www.annualcreditreport.com Phone: 877-322-8228

Or mail a copy of the Annual Credit Request Form to: Annual Credit Report Request Service

P.O. Box 105281

Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

A copy of the Request Form may be found on page 13, or you may download a copy at:


To place a security or fraud alert on your credit reports, call: Equifax 1-800-525-6285

Experian 1-888-397-3742 Trans Union 1-800-680-7289

(NOTE: You only need to call one agency. When you place a fraud alert on that company’s report, that company is responsible for notifying the other two credit reporting agencies).


1-877-382-4357 (toll free) www.ftc.gov


The District Attorney’s Web site contains numerous documents of value to consumers trying to protect against a variety of crimes. Click on “Consumer Protection” to access these documents.


To stop credit card offers or unwanted credit cards, use the “OPT OUT” Program. There is no charge for this service. You will need to give your Social Security Number.

1-888-567-8688 (toll free)



To notify the check verification companies to stop accepting your checks: TeleCheck 800-710-9898 or 800-927-0188

Certegy, Inc. 800-437-5120

To find out if bad checks are being passed in your name: SCAN 800-262-7771


Resolving the consequences of identity theft is left largely to the victims. Act quickly and assertively, and keep records/copies of all contacts and reports. The District Attorney’s Office has created an ID Theft Workbook to help you in repairing the damage from identity theft. To request a free copy, call the D.A.’s Consumer Protection Line at:


Or download a copy at www.da18.org. Click on “Consumer Protection” –

“Issues” – “Identity Theft”

Other helpful resources for victims of identity theft include: www.IDTheftinfo.org

www.idtheftcenter.org 7. INTERNAL REVENUE CONTACTS

To verify that the IRS actually sent a notice, call 1-800-829-1040

To report an IRS related fraud, call the tax-fraud referral hot line 1-800-366-4484

If identity theft has caused problems with the IRS, call: IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit


If you have a problem with the IRS that you can not resolve, call: Taxpayer Advocate for Colorado

303-446-1012 8. INTERNET SCAMS

To report an Internet-based scam, go to www.ic3.gov 9. LEGAL ASSISTANCE

University of Denver Student Law Office 303-871-6140, Office 335

E-mail: lsaraceno@law.du.edu Colorado Legal Assistance (low income)


www.coloradolegalservices.org Metropolitan Lawyer Referral Service, Inc.




To eliminate much of the junk mail filling your mailbox, contact the Mail Preference Service and send the following letter:

Mail Preference Service PO Box 643

Carmel, NY 10512 To Whom It Concern:

Please remove my name from your marketing lists. Thank you for your attention to this matter. My name and address are:

Your name

Your mailing address City, State, Zip Code

Or you can go to their website and register on-line at: www.dmaconsumers.org


If your passport is stolen or being used fraudulently: www.travel.state.gov/passport_services.html or call a local U.S. Department of State field office 12. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

SSA Fraud Hotline: 1-800-269-0271 Web site: www.ssa.gov


In Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln Counties:

Call the D.A.’s Consumer Protection Line: 720-874-8547 In Denver City and County:

Call the District Attorney’s Fraud Line: 720-913-9179 In Adams/Broomfield Counties:

Call the District Attorney’s Fraud Line: 303-835-5633 In Jefferson/Gilpin Counties:



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