Identity Theft

IDENTITY THEFT HAPPENS

Most victims of identity theft don’t realize they’ve been stung until it’s too late. It can sneak up and wallop a person like it did in a scheme posted on the Identity Theft Resource Center Web site. It starts with a customer standing at the cash register inside a retail store. In the middle of the purchase, the clerk gets a telephone call from store security saying there is a problem with the customer’s credit card and asking the clerk to confirm the customer’s personal information, which she does. The caller asks a few other questions and hangs up. Turns out it wasn’t store security, but rather an identity thief watching the transaction nearby and calling from a cellular phone. The customer’s information was used by the thief minutes later to open an instant credit account at another department store. While the cell phone method is one of the more creative means to hijack a person’s identity, it points to the relative ease with which a potential thief can access numbers that make your finances, and identity, click. Your information is already out there, imprinted on paperwork, resting in databases or otherwise available. When searching for information, outlaws embark on an illegal scavenger hunt, digging through the trash, stealing mail, breaking into cars and scanning the Internet. In Woodland, however, much of the information in this illicit identity marketplace comes from mail theft or what police call “trashing,” when people roam alleys and streets looking for discarded paperwork. One tossed pre-approved credit card offer can yield a profile of multiple fraudulent charge accounts. Many people who aren’t aware of the crime or its implications toss out this valuable information daily without shredding or destroying it, turning their trash cans into veritable identity theft gold mines. Preventive actions you can take

  1. Remove mail from your mailbox after delivery. Use locking mailboxes at home.
  2. Put outgoing mail in post office mailboxes. Do not leave it out in the open.
  3. Never give information over the telephone such as your Social Security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, credit card number, or bank PIN code, unless you initiated the phone call.
  4. Shred pre-approved credit applications, credit card receipts, bills and other financial information before discarding them.
  5. Carry only needed IDs and credit cards in your wallet. Cancel those you don't use and maintain a list of the ones you do.
  6. Order your credit report from the three credit bureaus once a year to check for fraudulent activity or other discrepancies.
  7. Never leave receipts at bank machines, bank counters, trash receptacles, or unattended gas pumps. Destroy them when you no longer need them.
  8. Memorize your Social Security number and all of your passwords. Do not record them on anything in your wallet or purse.
  9. Sign all new credit cards upon receipt.
  10. Save all credit card receipts and match them against your monthly bills.

To report identity theft call dispatch at (530)666-2411. For more information about ways to protect yourself against identity thieves contact Mini Higgins, Crime Prevention Liasion, at (530)661-7854.

The Three Major Credit Reporting Bureaus

  • Equifax (800) 685-1111
  • Experian (formerly TRW) (888)397-3742
  • Trans Union (800)888-4213