by Nancy Benskin
Nancy is a Senior Vice President of Private Banking for Avenue Bank. Nancy graduated from the University of Kentucky with a BA in Business Administration. She currently serves as Secretary and Board Member for All About Women. She is a past Board member, Development Committee Member, and past chair of The Mad Hatter for the Sexual Assault Center. Nancy is serving on committees for the Ballet Ball and the Symphony Fashion Show. Nancy is also a graduate of the Young Leaders Council, is a member of the Friends of Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, and the Pencil Foundation.
Our clients are consistently asking us how to better protect themselves against identity theft.
The best way to protect yourself is by protecting your information. Below are several tips to practice in order to minimize being a victim of stolen identity.
- Do not carry your extra credit cards, Social Security card, birth certificate, or passport in your wallet or purse except when necessary. This minimizes the amount of information a thief can steal. Photocopy everything in your wallet, so if it is stolen you know exactly who to call.
- Do not click on links in any emails you receive from financial institutions – even if you’re sure they are legitimate. Instead, go to your browser and type in the domain name of the institution and then login to your account. There are numerous emails circulating that claim to be from your bank, but they are actually “phishing emails” involved in a scam.
- Install and keep updated: firewalls, virus and spyware detection software on your home computer.
- Take credit card receipts with you and shred them. Never toss them in a public trash container.
- Never leave your purse or wallet unattended, regardless of where you are. Never leave your purse or wallet in open view in your car, even when your car is locked.
- Destroy all checks immediately after you close a checking account. Destroy or keep in a secure place any courtesy checks that your bank or credit card company sends to you.
- Reconcile your check and credit card statements in a timely fashion, verifying that you or the cardholder made these charges. Limit the number of credit cards you have, and cancel any inactive accounts.
- Never give any credit card, bank, or Social Security information to anyone by telephone, even if you made the call, unless you can positively verify that the call is legitimate.
- Memorize your passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs) so you do not have to write them down. Be aware of your surroundings to make sure no one is watching you input your PIN.
- Keep a list of all your credit accounts and bank accounts in a secure place so you can quickly call the issuers if they become lost or stolen. Include account numbers, expiration dates, and telephone numbers of customer service and fraud departments.
- Shred pre-approved credit offers before disposing of them in your trash or recycling bin.
If you are a victim of identity theft, here are a few tips on what to do:
Place a Fraud Alert
As soon as you have confirmed that you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you need to call one of the three main credit agencies — TransUnion, Equifax or Experian — and place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only need to call one because they’re required by law to inform the other two. Once you place the alert, you’re eligible to receive a free credit report, so be sure to get one and review it for any other suspicious activity.
Close the Account
It’s important to close the affected account as soon as possible to stop your identity thief. Call the creditor who issued the card and talk to someone in the fraud department. You should follow up by sending a written statement supporting your claim. Once the issue has been resolved, ask your credit card company to send you a written document for your records
File an Identity Theft Report
The next step is to get in touch with your local police department and file an identity theft report. The more detailed you are, the more helpful it is to them, so gather all of the information you can before you call. Helpful details include dates and places of the fraudulent activity as well as information about the accounts that were illegally opened or tampered with. You should also call the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and file a complaint. Be sure to get copies of all reports for your records.
Keep Good Records
Keep good records of all the people you’ve spoken to, as well as making copies of all reports, correspondence, e-mails and documents — anything relating to your case. If asked for your records, send a copy and keep the original paperwork.