Connecticut Attorney General's Office
Identity Theft Alert
Preventing Identity Theft
A new and sophisticated kind of crook is menacing consumers: the identity thief. Instead of guns, identity thieves use information - your information - to steal. These hi-tech criminals want your social security, bank and credit card numbers, and other personal financial information, which they use to obtain credit cards, purchase expansive items, such as jewelry or cars, even take out insurance policies. The results can be devastating: thousands of dollars in bills you do not owe, ruined credit, months, even years, spent trying to repair the damage.
Identity thieves troll for personal financial information in many ways including: going through garbage for discarded store receipts and credit card statements, sending fraudulent emails that try to trick consumers into revealing their information, stealing credit card and bank statements from mail boxes and trying to spot PIN numbers at ATM machines.
Consumers can protect themselves from identity theft in a variety of ways. Perhaps the most effective shield is a "credit freeze." Under a law proposed by my office and passed by the General Assembly, consumers can have one of the major credit rating agencies "freeze" their credit. A freeze means no new credit can be taken out in your name and your credit report not released without your express authorization.
A credit freeze request must be made in writing by certified mail to one of the three major credit rating agencies, Equifax, Experian and Transunion. The credit bureaus must freeze a consumer's credit report within five (5) business days of receipt of the request. Within ten days of freezing a consumer account, the credit bureau must provide the consumer with written confirmation and a personal identification number (PIN), which the consumer can use to lift the freeze for a specific third party or period of time.
Credit bureaus may charge $10 to freeze and $12 to temporarily un-freeze credit.
The addresses of the major credit bureaus are:
Other actions consumers can take to forestall identity theft:
- Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately.
- Keep your information in a secure place, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having work done in your house.
- Never give out personal information over the phone, through the mail or over the internet unless you know and trust the business or individual you are dealing with.
- Do not put personal information such as social security numbers or dates of birth on checks.
- Never put credit card information or any financial account numbers on postcards or outsides of envelopes.
- Do not use an obvious password like your birthday, your mother's maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- If you receive an e-mail request claiming to be from your Internet Service Provider (ISP), PayPal or some other business stating that your "account information needs to be updated" or that "the credit card you signed up with is invalid or expired and the information needs to be re-entered," do not respond without checking with the business and its credit card fraud department first. Such emails are usually fraudulent.
- Never click on links in unsolicited emails. Use firewalls, anti-spy ware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to-date. Visit OnGuardOnline.gov for more information.
- Guard receipts when using credit or debit cards because some businesses print full account numbers on the receipts, although it is illegal in Connecticut.
- Guard your mail against theft. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox. If you are away for an extended period, request a hold on your mail at your local post office. Deposit outgoing mail in post office mailboxes or your local post office instead of leaving it for pickup.
- Tear up or shred papers with your personal information on it. To limit credit card applications and other financial-related mail offers: Contact 1-888-5OPT-OUT. To receive less national advertising mail, you can pay $1 to register for the Direct Marketing Association's Mail Preference Service. They can be reached at Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 282, Carmel, NY 10512.
- Monitor financial accounts and billing statements for unexplained and unexpected charges.
- Get a free copy of your credit report to check for discrepancies. To order your free annual report from one or all the national consumer reporting companies, visit www.annualcreditreport.com, call toll-free 877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. The form is available at: Federal Trade Commission website. Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually, as they use a centralized system. They provide free annual credit reports only through www.annualcreditreport.com, 877-322-8228, and Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.You can order one credit report, or all three (one from each credit reporting agency) at once. For more details, please visit the official website.
What to Do If You Are a Victim of Identity Theft
- Contact your creditors and bank immediately.
- Change pin numbers and passwords immediately.
- Call a credit bureau to place a "Fraud Alert" on your credit reports, get a free copy of your credit report and review it carefully. The alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. The three nationwide consumer 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 - 1-888-397-3742; TransUnion - 1-800-680-7289.
- Contact your local police. Under Connecticut state law, identity theft is a Class D Felony, punishable by one to five years in prison and a fine.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission using the online complaint form; or call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261; or write Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.
- Inform the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General by writing to 110 Sherman Street, Hartford, CT, 06105, or faxing 860-808-5587.
Content Last Modified on 12/1/2011 12:02:53 PM