Preventing Identity Theft

Joyce B. Robinson

November 12, 2021

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(This article first appeared in the November/December issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

The holiday season is beginning and identity theft is on the rise in the USA. Identity Theft occurs when someone uses your name, address, Social Security number, bank or credit card account number without your knowledge to open accounts and/or commit fraud or other crimes.

The identity thief may use your information to apply for new credit cards, change the mailing address on your current credit card accounts and run up high balances; acquire auto loans or phone services in your name; write bad checks or drain your bank account, and/or give your name to the police during an arrest. If/when they do not show up for the court date, an arrest warrant could be issued in your name.

Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

These tips can protect you from identity theft:

Secure your Social Security number (SSN).
Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Store it in a safe place.
Avoid giving personal information. Never give your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, or account numbers over the phone or the internet unless you know it’s secure.
Be careful what you post on social media.
Identity thieves constantly monitor social media to obtain personal information.
Collect mail daily. Place a hold on your mail when away from home for several days.
Review your credit card and bank account statements. Compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer. Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases.
Use security features on your mobile phone. Update sharing and firewall settings when you’re on a public wi-fi network. If you use public wi-fi, use a virtual private network (VPN), to stop companies from tracking what you do online.
Store personal information in a safe place. Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards. This can prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information. Keep personal information out of view of visitors or workers who may come to your home to perform services.
Review your credit reports once a year. Be certain that they only include accounts that you opened.

What to Do If You Are a Victim of Identity Theft?

Place a fraud alert in your file by contacting each of these three nationwide consumer reporting agencies: Equifax: 1-800-525-6285, Experian: 1-888-397-3742, and Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289. Ask that they “freeze your credit files.” Credit freezes prevent someone from applying for and getting approval for a credit account in your name.

Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by phone at 1-877-438-4338 or by email at Ask that the nationwide consumer reporting agencies place “fraud alerts” in your file to let potential creditors and others know that you are a victim of identity theft. File a report with your police department. This will serve as back up documentation for the credit bureaus and creditors. In addition, please consult with an attorney.

As we begin a new year, may God grant you Peace, Good Health, and Happiness in 2022! Be Blessed and Stay Safe!

The text is this article is from the and the FTC Identity Theft websites.


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