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The Importance of Using a Shredder
There is a good chance that you know somebody who has had their identity stolen, and it is possible that you may have been a victim yourself. Mail, checks, receipts, credit cards and other forms of personal information are just a few of the items that could be stolen. Identity thieves know exactly what to look for and can take stolen identity information and use it to open a bank account in your name, apply for credit cards, create forged checks, file for bankruptcy and more. This guide is designed to give you some tips on how to prevent identity theft before it happens.
Identity Theft Facts From The Federal Trade Commission:
HOW IDENTITY THEFT OCCURS
I first was notified that someone had used my Social Security number for their taxes in February 2004. I also found out that this person opened a checking account, cable and utility accounts, and a cell phone account in my name. I'm still trying to clear up everything and just received my income tax refund after waiting four to five months. Trying to work and get all this cleared up is very stressful.
From a consumer's complaint to the FTC, July 9, 2004
Despite your best efforts to manage the flow of your personal information or to keep it to yourself, skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to gain access to your data.
How identity thieves get your personal information:
- They get information from businesses or other institutions by:
- stealing records or information while they're on the job
- bribing an employee who has access to these records
- hacking these records
- conning information out of employees
- They may steal your mail, including bank and credit card statements, credit card offers, new checks, and tax information.
- They may rummage through your trash, the trash of businesses, or public trash dumps in a practice known as "dumpster diving."
- They may get your credit reports by abusing their employer's authorized access to them, or by posing as a landlord, employer, or someone else who may have a legal right to access your report.
- They may steal your credit or debit card numbers by capturing the information in a data storage device in a practice known as "skimming." They may swipe your card for an actual purchase, or attach the device to an ATM machine where you may enter or swipe your card.
- They may steal your wallet or purse.
- They may complete a "change of address form" to divert your mail to another location.
- They may steal personal information they find in your home.
- They may steal personal information from you through email or phone by posing as legitimate companies and claiming that you have a problem with your account. This practice is known as "phishing" online, or pretexting by phone.
How identity thieves use your personal information:
- They may call your credit card issuer to change the billing address on your credit card account. The imposter then runs up charges on your account. Because your bills are being sent to a different address, it may be some time before you realize there's a problem.
- They may open new credit card accounts in your name. When they use the credit cards and don't pay the bills, the delinquent accounts are reported on your credit report.
- They may establish phone or wireless service in your name.
- They may open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on that account.
- They may counterfeit checks or credit or debit cards, or authorize electronic transfers in your name, and drain your bank account.
- They may file for bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts they've incurred under your name, or to avoid eviction.
- They may buy a car by taking out an auto loan in your name.
- They may get identification such as a driver's license issued with their picture, in your name.
- They may get a job or file fraudulent tax returns in your name.
- They may give your name to the police during an arrest. If they don't show up for their court date, a warrant for arrest is issued in your name.
Protecting Yourself Before Identity Theft Starts:
- Buying a paper shredder is the best way to protect yourself from fraud. Shredders are very affordable and lightweight and cam be used for home or personal use. Shredding documents with your personal information can ensure financial safety.
- Shred all your waste paper, not just selected confidential items.
- Use a crosscut shredder.
- Make sure anyone with your personal information used a crosscut shredder.
- Make sure your bank properly handles your personal information.
- Encourage the destruction of all waste paper.
- Purchase shredders appropriate to your needs.
- Use crosscut shredders for a high level of security.
Examples of items that criminals can use if not properly disposed of:
|Address labels from junk mail and magazines||ATM receipts|
|Bank statements||Birth certificate copies|
|Canceled and voided checks||Credit and charge card bills, carbon copies, summaries and receipts|
|Credit reports and histories||Documents containing maiden name (used by credit card companies for security reasons)|
|Documents containing names, addresses, phone numbers or e-mail addresses||Documents relating to investments|
|Documents containing passwords or PIN numbers||Driver's licenses or items with a driver's license number|
|Employee pay stubs||Employment records|
|Expired passports and visas||Unlaminated identification cards (college IDs, state IDs, employee ID badges, military IDs)|
|Legal documents||Investments, stocks and property transactions|
|Item with a signature (leases, contracts, letters)||Luggage tags|
|Medical and dental records||Papers with a Social Security number|
|Pre-approved credit card applications||Receipts with checking account numbers|
|Report cards||Resumés or curriculum vitae|
|Travel itineraries||Used airline tickets|
|Utility bills (telephone, gas, electric, water, cable TV, Internet)|