Camelot Neighborhood Association

Identity Theft

—A GROWING MENACE

 

The Neighborhood Police Officers hold a crime watch meeting every month at the police station; often there are speakers from various departments. Detective Mike Skillings, who investigates identity theft crimes, did not have good news for us. Not only is identify theft one of the fastest growing crimes in Garland and all over the United States, it is still as difficult as ever for the victims to get everything cleared up and get their lives back again. The victim is assumed to be guilty until he can prove his innocence; even with police reports, this can be very difficult to do. Businesses and credit bureaus are very slow in clearing the victim’s credit records even though they are aware of the fraud. This is one crime where prevention is worth years of a cure because sometimes it takes that long to get your life and your credit records back to normal.

Detective Skillings said that it is very difficult to solve identity theft crimes; often leads come from other officers who stumble on the evidence when looking for something else. Officers who stop vehicles for other reasons or search homes for other reasons will find evidence of multiple identities and credit cards under many different names. The fraud unit is notified and uses the evidence to solve crimes, often alerting victims who had no prior knowledge of the crime being committed against them. Identity theft is growing very fast because it’s so lucrative and a relatively low risk for the criminal since it is a crime that is so difficult to solve.


So what can we do to protect ourselves?

 

Detective Skillings says that most criminals still get most of their information from your trash and your mailbox. Most of us are familiar with the standard warnings. Don’t mail bill payments and checks from home. Detective Skillings mails his bills only from the post office. Shred all financial documents before putting them in the trash, including credit card offers. Don’t give out personal information or credit card information over the phone unless you made the call and trust the business. Examine your credit card statements to be sure there are no fraudulent charges. These basic steps are still very important, and you should be employing all of them.


A few new warnings—Social Security numbers

 

The Social Security number is the key to your credit report and bank accounts and is a prime target of criminals. Never give it out to anyone unless it is absolutely necessary. There are some additional things that you can do to protect this number.

After applying for anything that requires a credit report, request that the Social Security number on your application be completely obliterated and your original credit report be shredded before your eyes or returned to you once a decision has been made. A lender or rental manager needs to retain only your name and credit score to justify a decision.

Be especially careful about your medical records if your medical insurance identification number is your Social Security number. Be sure that your medical providers shred patient records before discarding them. Even though some of these records may be old, the personal information on them can still be valid. Criminals go through business trash for exactly this kind of information.

Other things you can do:

Ask to be removed from the marketing lists of the three credit-reporting bureaus. This reduces the number of pre-approved credit offers you will receive.

Add your name to the name-deletion lists of the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service and Telephone Preference Service used by banks and other marketers.

Do not carry extra credit cards or other important identity documents unless needed. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine and make a copy of the front and back. If your wallet is lost or stolen, you will have a record of all the account numbers, expiration dates, and the telephone numbers needed to report the loss.

Close unused credit-card accounts.

Check your credit bureau information at least once a year to check for accounts not opened by you. Also check your Social Security benefit and earnings statement once a year to check for fraud. People with excellent credit ratings and few credit cards are especially targeted.

Subscribe to a credit monitoring service that will notify you whenever someone applies for credit in your name. You have to pay for this service, but you would know very quickly if you have a problem.

Posted by txclogger on 05/27/2006
Last updated on 07/29/2009
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Garland, Texas 75044

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