Your Personal Information is a Valuable Commodity That Needs to be Protected
Knowing how to protect your information — and your identity — is crucial. Money Smart KC has some great information on their website from the Federal Trade Commission on how to Deter...Detect...and Defend.
Keep your personal information secure
- Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
- Protect your Social Security number. Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
- Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless YOU have initiated the contact and know and trust who you are dealing with.
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited Emails; instead, type in a Web address you know.
- Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to-date.
- Don’t use an obvious password like your name, birth date, mother’s maiden name or your Social Security number. Don’t share passwords or PIN numbers. Change passwords often.
- Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if there are roommates or others that have access to your home.
- Sign up for eStatements for your bank account and credit cards (avoid mail theft).
- Be alert on all scams.
Visit OnGuardOnline for more information about avoiding scams, securing your computer, protecting kids online and being cautious online. Español –www.alertaenlinea.gov
Detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your billing statements and financial accounts.
Be alert to:
– Mail or bills that do not arrive as expected.
– Unexpected credit cards or account statements.
– Denials of credit for no apparent reason.
– Calls or letters about purchases you did not make.
- Review financial accounts and billing statements regularly, looking for charges you did not make.
- Order your credit report: The law requires the major nationwide credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – to give you a free copy of your credit report each year upon request. Visit Annual Credit Report to view your credit report, or call 1-877-322-8228 or you can complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You can download the PDF Annual Credit Report Request Form from the FTC site.
- Inspect your credit report. Credit reports have information about you, including what accounts you have and your bill paying history. Make sure all the information is correct and if you find an error, the FTC shows the steps to take to dispute errors on your credit report.
Want to know more about credit reports? The FTC has a comprehensive article about credit reports here.
Defend against identity theft as soon as you suspect a problem.
Place a "Fraud Alert" on your credit reports, and review the reports carefully. The alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make certain changes to your existing accounts. The three nationwide credit reporting companies have toll-free numbers for placing an initial 90-day fraud alert; a call to one company is sufficient:
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
- Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Placing a fraud alert entitles you to free copies of your credit reports. Look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain.
Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently.
- Call the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened or changed without your permission. Follow up in writing, with copies of supporting documents.
- Use the Identity Theft Affidavit to support your written statement.
- Ask for written verification that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged.
- Keep copies of documents and records of your conversations about the theft.
File A Police Report
File a report with law enforcement officials to help you with creditors who may want proof of the crime.
Report Your Complaint To The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Your report helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigations.
- Online: www.consumer.ftc.gov
- By phone: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or TTY, 1-866-653-4261
Consumer Protection Resources for Seniors (from the American Banker's Association)
- 14 Red Flags for Elder Financial Abuse (PDF)
- 5 Ways to Spot a Lottery Scam (PDF)
- 7 Tips to Help Older Adults Choose the Right Caregiver (PDF)
- Infographic on Joint Bank Accounts (PDF)
- Protecting the Elderly from Financial Abuse
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) - Financial Protection for Older Americans