What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft involves acquiring key pieces of someone’s identifying information – such as name, address, date of birth, social security number, and mother’s maiden name – in order to impersonate them. This information enables the identity thief to commit numerous forms of fraud which include, but are not limited to, taking over the victim’s financial accounts, opening new bank accounts, purchasing automobiles, applying for loans, credit cards, and social security benefits, renting apartments, and establishing services with utility and phone companies.
Types of Scams
Internet and Online Scams
Internet and online scams are one way thieves will attempt to gather personal information. Sometimes, these scams come in the form of emails, and sometimes they can occur when you log into a public WiFi network. Here are a few tips to avoid becoming a victim of an online scam:
- Never conduct financial or other sensitive business on an open or unsecured WiFi network; scammers can hack into your computer or phone on unsecured WiFi networks. For these transactions, always use your own closed, secured, and password-protected WiFi network.
- Use caution when disclosing checking account numbers, credit card numbers, or other personal financial data on any website.
- Never give your passwords to anyone, even if they claim they need them in order to “verify information.”
- If you receive suspicious emails in your UH account, check the sender. Sometimes, scammers will hack an email account or pose as an official UH office. Forward any of these emails immediately to ITS at email@example.com so they are aware of the scam.
- Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows, or emails – delete them. If you already opened the email, DO NOT open any attachments unless you were expecting to receive them.
- Avoid suspicious websites – if a website is poorly designed or has multiple pop-up windows, it might not be a legitimate retailer. To be safe, stick to big-name retailers or those who use familiar payment systems, such as PayPal.
- Always use strong passwords that are long and difficult to guess, especially on websites containing your personal or banking information. Use different passwords for each account.
- Don’t friend strangers online. Some fraudsters will prey on people using social media accounts like Facebook. Be careful who you allow to see information about you.
- UH Information Technology Services provides regular alerts on email phishing scams. For information about these scams, visit https://www.hawaii.edu/its/alerts/.
Scam phone calls and emails are becoming more common, and many of these scams are an effort to obtain money or personal information. Callers may identify themselves as a government official (police department, immigration services), an IRS employee, a charity worker, or even your credit card or student loan company. It is important to recognize these calls as scams immediately so you can protect your identity. Here are a few tips to remember:
- Don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognize the phone number – let them leave a message. With spoofing becoming more common, question the number on the caller ID. Be cautious and verify the person on the other end of the phone.
- Never give out personal information over the phone (social security number, address, birth date, mother’s maiden name, credit card number, etc.) unless you initiated the call.
- If you receive a “robocall,” don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator. Just hang up.
- Remember that government agencies, such as the IRS or law enforcement, will never make phone calls to demand money immediately, and will never accept money directly – if you receive a call from someone asking for money directly, hang up.
- If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency seeking personal information, hang up the phone and call the phone number on your account statement or the agency’s official website to verify the authenticity of the request.
- Some callers will tell you that you won a prize, and will ask to verify your personal information in order to collect the prize. Never give out personal information over the phone.
- Never wire money or provide debit or credit card information to somebody you do not know.
- Some callers will threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement to have you arrested if you do not pay them or provide information. Hang up immediately if you receive this type of call – note the phone number they called from and report it (see reporting information below).
- Don’t be afraid to tell the caller that you need time to think about your decision. Talk with a trusted friend, family member, or call Honolulu Police if you aren’t sure.
- If you believe that a scammer called you, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint, and to HPD at 911.
- Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after delivery.
- Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection mailboxes or take it directly to your local post office. Do not leave in unsecured mail receptacles.
- Never give personal information over the telephone, such as your social security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, or credit card number, unless you initiated the phone call. Protect this information and release it only when absolutely necessary.
- Shred pre-approved credit applications, credit card receipts, bills, and other financial information you don’t want before discarding them in the trash or recycling bin.
- Empty your wallet of extra credit cards and IDs, or better yet, cancel the ones you do not use and maintain a list of the ones you do.
- Order your credit report from the three credit bureaus to check for fraudulent activity or other discrepancies.
- Never leave receipts at bank machines, bank counters, trash receptacles, or unattended gasoline pumps. Keep track of all your paperwork. Destroy any unwanted receipts and paperwork.
- Memorize your social security number and all of your passwords. Do not record them on any cards or on anything in your wallet or purse.
- Sign all new credit cards upon receipt.
- Save all credit card receipts and compare them against your monthly bills.
- Be conscious of normal receipt of routine financial statements. Contact the sender if statements are not received in the mail.
- Notify your credit card companies and financial institutions in advance of any change of address or phone numbers.
- Never loan your credit cards to anyone else.
- Never put your credit cards or any other financial account numbers on a postcard or on the outside of an envelope.
- Never give out your PIN number.
- If you applied for a new credit card and it hasn’t arrived in a timely manner, call the bank or credit card company involved.
- Report all lost or stolen credit cards immediately.
- Closely monitor expiration dates on your credit cards. Contact the credit card issuer if replacement cards are not received prior to the expiration dates.
- Beware of mail or telephone solicitations disguised as promotions offering instant prizes or awards designed solely to obtain your personal information or credit card numbers.
- Update your antivirus software and back up your computer files on a regular basis. Don’t conduct personal business over public unsecured “hotspots.”
- Use caution when posting personal information on Facebook and other social networking sites. More tips at www.idtheftcenter.org.
What to do if You are a Victim of Identity Theft
- Keep detailed notes.
- Keep a log of all your contacts and make copies of all documents.
- Start a log of your account activity.
- Note the date and time when you first discovered the theft of your identity.
- Continue adding information to this log and retain it for future reference even after your credit has been restored.
- You may also wish to contact a privacy or consumer advocacy group regarding illegal activity.
- Report the crime immediately to the police.
- Obtain a police report number and record it for future reference.
- Obtain a verification letter from the Records Division of the police department. A copy of this letter can be given to creditors when you dispute fraudulent charges.
- Immediately notify the three major credit-reporting bureaus’ fraud units to report identity theft.
- Ask to have a “Fraud Alert/Victim Impact” statement placed in your credit file asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts.
- The credit bureaus will help you minimize the damage to your credit.
- The bureaus will alert you to any other attempts to use your identity.
- Ask the credit bureaus for copies of your credit report.
- Credit bureaus must give you a free copy of your report if it is inaccurate because of fraud.
- Review your reports carefully to make sure no additional fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name or unauthorized changes made to your existing account.
- In a few months, order new copies of your reports to verify your corrections and changes, and to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
- Notify all of your financial institutions about the identity theft.
- Alert your banks to flag your accounts and contact you to confirm any unusual activity.
- Request a change of personal identification number (PIN) and a new password.
- Immediately cancel all credit cards and bank accounts if your cards and checks were stolen.
- Ask the financial institutions to notify you of any attempts to use your closed accounts. Ask for the information to be sent to you, and then report it to the police.
- Ask the financial institution about procedures to contest any fraud charges.
- Keep copies of all written communication.
- Record all information in your log. Remember to get the name and telephone number of the person who helped you. This will make it easier if you need to call back for additional help.
- Immediately contact the credit card companies, issuing banks, department stores, utility companies, etc., where you believe your identity may have been fraudulently used by phone and in writing, to inform them of the problem.
- Monitor your monthly financial statements and credit reports.
- Identify all the locations where your identity was fraudulently used.
- Contact the business and alert them that the charges were a result of your identity being stolen. Give them the police report number.
- Request that the businesses provide all of the information they have regarding the fraudulent charges. This information will assist the police in their investigation.
- Ask to speak with someone in the security or fraud department, and follow up in writing. Following up with a letter is one of the procedures spelled out in the Fair Credit Billing Act for resolving errors on credit billing statements, including charges that you have not made.
- Call your nearest U.S. Postal Inspection Service office and your local police.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the problem.
- Contact the Social Security Administration’s Fraud Hotline.
- Contact the state office of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to see if another license was issued in your name. If so, request a new license number and fill out the DMV’s complaint form to begin the fraud investigation process.
What to do if a Collection Agency Calls You
- Have your log readily available to provide the collection agency with information that will explain the fraudulent charges.
- Obtain information from the collection agency regarding the business that gave the authority to collect from you. Armed with this information, you can refer to your log for the name and telephone number of the person representing that business.
- Obtain the name and telephone number of the person representing the collection agency. Write it in your log.
- There may be times when the representative you are dealing with will refuse to accept your explanation. Ask to speak to the representative’s supervisor and find out what is required to clear your name.
- Many agencies and financial institutions will require you to fill out an affidavit attesting that your identity was stolen and used to make fraudulent charges. Fill out the affidavit and keep a copy for your records.
- Keep the phone list in a conspicuous place in your home, such as on the refrigerator door. Create a folder to store any information you may receive. Immediately refer to this information when you discover the theft of your identity.
- Clearing up your credit is in your hands. Merely reporting it to the police is not sufficient. The police are powerless when it comes to clearing your credit history. You are the only person who can do it. Prompt reporting is the key to minimizing your losses. Take control of your life by taking prompt action. Persistence pays off.
Credit Bureau Information
P.O. Box 105873
Atlanta, GA 30348-5873
Telephone: (800) 977-2493
P.O. Box 390
Springfield, PA 19064-0390
Telephone: (800) 916-8800
Experian Information Solutions (formerly TRW)
P.O. Box 949
Allen, TX 75013-0949
Telephone: (888) 397-3742
Report Identity Theft To:
|Honolulu Police Department||911|
|U.S. Secret Service||(808) 541-1912|
|U.S. Postal Service||(808) 423-3790|
ID Theft Information
|Federal Trade Commission||(877) 438-4338|
|Privacy Rights||(619) 298-3396|
|US Postal Inspection Service||(415) 775-5800|
|Social Security Administration, Fraud Hotline||(800) 269-0271|
|UH Information Technology Services (ITS) Tips & Info||(808) 956-8883|