Troubleshooter: ID Theft

April 12, 2010 3:46:04 PM PDT
Of the 11.1 million Americans who were victims of identity them last year, those cases resulted in the loss of more than $54 billion.

You may be surprised to learn that thieves get what they need to steal your ID from your mailbox or your garbage can.

All of the junk that shows up in your mailbox could be enough for someone to steal your identity. It doesn't take much.

Pre-approved credit card offers are offers that give thieves the go-ahead to open fraudulent credit card accounts. You should put a stop to those offers by opting out.

All you have to do is call or go online to optoutprescreen.com.

You have to opt out every five years, and each adult member of your family must opt out as well.

If you have children under the age of 13, and they are getting credit card advertisements or credit card offers through the mail that could be a sign they their identity has been stolen.

Parents should contact the three credit card bureaus and inform them right away of the theft. You should take the same steps if you're getting mail for a loved one who has passed away.

And if you are experiencing mailbox clutter like catalogues, direct mail offers and coupon packs, you can opt out of those mailings as well.

Taking action to stop all of your unwanted mail can prevent you from becoming the next ID victim.

Typically, you throw away all of your junk mail and that's why the garbage can is a goldmine for fraud artists. But now you have the chance to shred all of your junk and personal documents and one time.

There are several shred-a-thons scheduled in the Triangle that are hosted by the BBB and the attorney general's office.

To find one near you, read the information below. Also listed below are links and phone numbers to put a stop to your unwanted junk mail.

Credit Card/junk mail opt out:

1. Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers Pre-approved credit card offers are an easy target for identity thieves. They can steal incoming mail and use these offers to open fraudulent credit accounts. Stopping these pre-screened credit offers can help reduce the chances of identity theft. To “opt-out” of receiving pre-approved credit card offers for at least five years, and perhaps permanently, consumers can call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or visit: www.optoutprescreen.com. This service is offered by the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Consumers will be asked for personal information, including their name, address, birth date and Social Security Number. This information is only used to process requests and will remain confidential. This procedure will need to be followed for each adult family member.

2. Solicitations Sent to Children If a child under age 13 is being mailed advertisements or credit card offers, it could be a sign that identity theft has occurred. Parents should contact the three major credit reporting bureaus, listed below, and inform them of the situation.

a. Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 b. Experian: 1-888-397-3742 c. TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289

3. Catalogues A consumer’s mailbox can often be overrun with catalogues, even if they’ve never shopped with the company before. This is likely because the consumer has, at some point, made a catalogue or online purchase with a company that handed over their contact information to Abacus, an alliance of catalogue and publishing companies. To stop individual catalogue deliveries, consumers can contact the specific company in question. To stop mass mailings, consumers can e-mail, optout@abacus-us.com, or write to Abacus, Inc., P.O. Box 1478, Broomfield, Colorado 80038.

4. Direct Mail Offers Direct Marketing Association is a trade group with 5,200 member companies that use telephone, mail, and the Internet to pitch their products directly to consumers. To stop receiving mailings from DMA members, consumers can go to www.dmachoice.org. DMA regularly updates its list, but the companies it notifies to remove names from their mailing lists may not be as prompt to act. It may take as much as six months before solicitations from all DMA members stop.

5. Coupon Packs To stop receiving coupon packs, consumers can fill out an online request form at: www.coxtarget.com/mailsuppression/s/DisplayMailSuppressionForm. Other requests can be directed to the sender on the printed envelope received. 6. “Resident” and “Occupant” Mailings Consumers can remove their address from “resident” and “occupant” mailings that offer various goods and services by contacting Valassis—formerly known as ADVO, Inc.—either by phone 1-888-241-6760, or through an online form at www.advo.com/consumersupport.html. Consumers can also send a written request to ADVO, Inc. Customer Assistance, P.O. Box 249, Windsor, Connecticut 06095.

To further assist consumers, BBB is hosting “Secure Your ID” Day on Saturday, April 17 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Participants are encouraged to bring up to three bags or boxes of documents to the Coastal Federal Credit Union, located off Wake Forest Road at 1000 St. Albans Drive, Raleigh, NC 27609. These documents will be shredded for free, on the spot. BBB and sponsoring organizations will be distributing tips and information to help consumers protect their identity, both online and off. For more event information, visit www.easternnc.bbb.org/secure-your-id.

Shred-a-thon information from the NC AG's office web site:

Attorney General Roy Cooper is urging North Carolina consumers to bring old financial records they no longer need to one of nearly 30 shred-a-thons planned across the state this month.

“If you’re doing some spring cleaning, don’t just toss out documents that include your personal financial information,” Cooper said. “A trash bag of old bank statements and bills can be a jackpot for an identity thief.”

Between April 10 and May 1, a total of 29 free shredding events are planned across North Carolina. Shred-a-thons are scheduled for 21 North Carolina cities and towns, including Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Cary, Asheville, Hickory, Fayetteville, Elizabeth City, Morganton, Kannapolis, Statesville and Calabash.

Consumers can protect themselves from identity theft by bringing pre-approved credit card offers, old bills, out-of-date account statements and other documents that include personal information to any of the shred-a-thons.

The shred-a-thons are sponsored by a number of groups, including Cooper’s office, the Better Business Bureau, banks, shredding companies and local civic groups, law enforcement and media. A complete list of shred-a-thon locations, dates, times and event sponsors is available at www.ncdoj.gov.

“By shredding things like credit card applications and out-of-date financial documents, you make it harder for criminals to steal your identity and run up debts in your name,” Cooper said.

More shredding events are being planned for upcoming months and will also be posted at www.ncdoj.gov. Local groups that would like tips on how to organize shred-a-thons in their communities can contact the Attorney General’s Office at Outreach@ncdoj.gov.

For more protection from identity theft, Cooper also suggests the following tips:

· Guard your personal information. Don’t carry your Social Security card, and give out your Social Security Number only when absolutely necessary. Never share your SSN or other personal financial information with anyone you don’t know who calls you or emails you, no matter who they claim to be. Legitimate companies will not ask for your personal information this way.

· Check your credit reports regularly. You’re entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus. To get your free report, go to www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. To track your credit throughout the year, request a free report from a different credit bureau every four months. North Carolina is the first state in the nation to require all credit monitoring services to tell you how to get credit reports for free.

· Consider a free security freeze. Guard against ID theft by freezing your credit reports online for free. Seniors and victims of identity theft can also freeze their credit by telephone or mail for free. Placing security freezes on your credit prevents identity thieves from opening new accounts or taking out credit cards and loans in your name. Detailed information about how to place a security freeze is available at www.ncdoj.gov.

· Stop pre-approved credit card applications. Call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT or visit www.optoutprescreen.com to stop pre-approved credit card applications that an ID thief could steal and use to get credit in your name.

http://ncdoj.gov/News-and-Alerts/News-Releases-and-Advisories/Press-Releases/Spring-shred-a-thons-scheduled-statewide-to-fight-.aspx


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