Protect Your Privacy & Prevent Identity Fraud
Dear Maine Citizen,
There is growing concern today about privacy invasion and identity theft. This information outlines several easy steps you can take to protect your identity, your credit, and your privacy.
Secretary of State
The stealing of personal information to commit financial fraud--identity theft--is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States today. Some victims of identity theft do not learn that their identities have been stolen for months or even years. Often victims only discover the problem when they are refused a mortgage or a line of credit.
The good news is that by taking the following simple steps you can protect your privacy and limit your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.
Protect Your Privacy: Steps to Prevent Identity Theft
Empty your wallet of extra credit cards. Your birth certificate and passport should be in a secure place when not needed for travel.
Only provide your Social Security Number when it is required, such as for payroll records and insurance records, banking and property transactions, or when dealing with a government agency. Do not carry your Social Security Card in your wallet.
Protect your personal data. It is unlawful to loan your license or identification documents to other people. Cut up your old license after it expires.
Be careful of what you throw in the trash. Tear up, or shred, bank and credit card statements and other papers containing personal information before throwing them away.
Remove your name from mailing lists for preapproved lines of credit by participating in the credit bureaus' Opt-Out program. Call 1-888-567-8688 to enroll.
Mail monthly payments at the Post Office or at a secure mailbox. Leaving outgoing mail in your home mailbox allows anyone access to your personal or credit card information. Also, have the Post Office hold your mail if you are going away.
Be careful of "shoulder surfers" while using your ATM and phone cards. Be sure not to leave receipts on the counters at ATMs or banks.
Check your bank and credit card statements for unfamiliar activity. Review any questionable transactions with the bank or credit card company.
Close all unnecessary credit card accounts. Contact the companies and request the accounts be closed and then destroy the cards. Open and unused credit card accounts may increase your risks of financial and identity fraud.
Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three national credit-reporting agencies once or twice a year and inform them of any mistakes or irregularities that you find.
Experian (formerly TRW):www.experian.com
Avoid disclosing your credit card or personal information over the phone, unless you made the phone call and you are familiar with the business.
Victims of Identity Theft: 4 Steps to Take
1. Contact your local Police Department.
2. Contact all creditors with which your name may have been fraudulently used.
3. Contact the Bureau of Motor Vehicles Office of Investigations at 624-9000 ext. 52144 to ensure that your driver's license, vehicle registration and driving record are not adversely effected.
4. Contact the fraud offices of the three major credit reporting agencies listed above.
You may also want to contact the following agencies for certain circumstances:
Postal Inspection Service: if you suspect that an identity thief has used the mail to commit fraud with your identity. Tel: 1-877-876-2455
Social Security Administration: if you suspect that your Social Security Number is being used fraudulently. Tel: 1-800-269-0271
Internal Revenue Service: if you suspect the improper use of your identity in connection with tax violations. Tel: 1-800-829-0433
U.S. Secret Service: if you suspect you have been the victim of a fraud ring or if your case involves financial fraud with a high dollar amount. Tel: 207-780-3493
Check Verification Companies: if you had checks stolen or bank accounts fraudulently set up in your name.
National Processing Co.: (NPC) 1-800-526-5380
The Internet is a fantastic resource for researching, shopping, interacting with others and just surfing around. However, when using the Internet, you may wish to consider the following privacy suggestions.
Determine how public you want your information to be on the Internet and limit the information you give out accordingly.
Before entering online competitions or promotions, or signing up for free services, check what information you have to give away in return. Avoid providing optional information.
If you have concerns about a website's security, conduct transactions by telephone or by mail.
If your identity is stolen or you are stalked or harassed online, do not delete anything and contact your local police.
Department of the Secretary of State
Bureau of Motor Vehicles
Office of Investigations
29 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0029
Tel: (207) 624-9000 ext. 52144
Fax: (207) 624-9258