Thursday, January 31, 2013

Don't Be a Victim Like Sandy Bigelow Patterson

                                                       Identity Thief movie poster
Approximately 11 million Americans have their identities used fraudulently each year.  Elementary methods of identity theft continue.  From stealing wallets and purses, to dumpster diving and stealing mail, to the use of pretext and social engineering to deceive customer call centers into releasing personal account information, stealing a child’s identity, tax refunds, gathering personal information on social networks and more.

In the movie Identity Thief Sandy Bigelow Patterson is a victim of identity theft and the theft racks up hundreds of thousands of dollars in shopping sprees.  Although the movie may be exaggerated this happens everyday to millions of Americans.

According to the Federal Trade Commission since 2009 there have been approximately 57,000 cases of child identity theft reported. A new report issued in 2012 from All Clear ID estimates that one in 10 U.S. children are victims of identity theft. As of 2012, all U.S. states and territories have state laws that classify identity theft as a crime.  PlayStation Network and Qriocity account holders in the United States can enroll for the identity theft protection program by visiting

Credit, debit, checking and saving accounts are no longer the only targets.  Identity fraud has grown to include theft of cell and landline phone service; cable and satellite television service; power, water, gas and electric service; Internet payment service; medical insurance; home mortgages and rental housing; automobile, boat and other forms of financing and loans; and government benefits.  Identity thieves also use stolen identities to obtain employment and to deceive police when arrested.

Identity thieves are always thinking of new ways to steal your personal information.  Some people become victims of identity theft even though their credit card and debit card is still in their possession.  Protect your personal information as you would your life.  Here are 17 ways to help protect your personal information and avoid being a victim like Sandy Bigelow Patterson:

  1. If you have a portable device that connects to the internet through Wi-Fi contact the company and ask about their identity theft policy.
  2. Install antivirus software on your home computer and all portable devices.
  3. Use an alternate email address, phone or mailing address. Never give out your home phone which can be linked to your home address.  Consider using your cell phone number instead.  Create a free separate email address on Gmail or yahoo for all junk mail.
  4. Open a P.O.  and use that address for all your mail, just for junk mail. 
  5. Read your junk mail and shred all junk mail and old personal information that has any identifying information such as: name, address, etc.
  6. Only provide your personal information to trusted sources. Verify the company calling and ask for a call back number.  Ensure they have an actual physical address and phone number on their website with a valid email address.
  7. Register with opt-out services to stop receiving junk mail and telemarketer calls such as: or
  8. Ask search engines to remove your personal information: Google, Yahoo, Bigfoot, Whitepages, Superpages, etc. You can also opt out of personalized ads and cookies on your internet browser.
  9. Contact data warehouse companies directly and ask that your personal information be removed such as: Lexus Nexus or  Intelius.
  10. Contact your landline and cell phone provider and report companies who repeatedly contact you regarding advertisements – these companies obtained your information without your permission.  File a complaint against the company with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  11. Don’t give your SSN  out and remind your children never to give out their SSN without your permission.
  12. Check your children’s credit each year especially if they are under age 18.
  13. Ask all companies and businesses that have your SSN how your information is protected (encrypted, etc.) – this includes employers, government agencies, service providers, banks, credit card companies, etc.
  14. If you are applying for job don't provide your SSN unless you are called for an interview and the job requires a background check.  Ask for a copy of the company's privacy policy. Some applications are thrown directly in the trash without being shredded.
  15. Add passwords or passcodes to your bank accounts, credit cards and other financial accounts.
  16. Don't carry your SSN, birth certificate, passport or mail in your wallet or purse or leave at work or lying around your house.
  17. Store personal documents in a safe secure place such as a fireproof safe.
If you are a victim of SSN Identity Theft
  1. Place a Fraud Alert with three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax: 800-525-6285, Experian: 888-397-3742, and TransUnion: 800-680-7289.
  2. If you're a victim of identity theft and the U.S. Mail is involved, call your Postal Inspector at 1-877-876-2455 from 8:00am to 4:30pm in all time zones or file a mail fraud report online   
  3. File a police report and file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission.
  4. For check fraud call Telecheck at 800-366-2425 and Chexsystems 800-428-9623. They can flag your file so that counterfeit checks will be refused.
  5. Contact your bank as soon as you become aware of the identity theft. You only have a limited amount of time to report the theft.
  6. If you SSN was stolen or comprised, contact the Social Security Administration to put a fraud alert on your SSN. 
  7. Contact your Department of Motor Vehicles and place an alert on your driver's license if your driver’s license was stolen.