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Identity Theft

An identity thief is someone who steals your checks, your Social Security number, or other personal identification, then uses your information to obtain credit in your name or to commit a crime.

Most identity thieves get your information by stealing a purse or wallet, or by stealing checks or credit card information out of your mail. In 2003 we experienced a rash of mail thefts. These thefts have included credit card checks, bank checks, and outgoing mail including personal checks. The thieves have used this information to steal over $100,000.00.

Prevention

Do not give your Social Security number, mother's maiden name or any account numbers to strangers who contact you, especially by telephone, Internet, or through the mail.

Identity thieves sometimes pose as business, bank or government representatives to get you to reveal personal information. Legitimate financial or government organizations that do business with you already have this information and will not ask for it over the telephone.

Pay attention to what time of month your bills arrive.

Guard your mail from theft.

Put passwords on your credit card, bank and telephone accounts.

Don't carry your Social Security Card, or number.

Don't carry credit cards or ID cards you don't need.

Tear or shred charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, bank checks and statements, expired charge cards, and credit offers you get in the mail. Also ask credit card companies to refrain from sending you checks.

Inspect your credit report at least annually. You can order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.

If You are a victim

Report the identify theft to the police or sheriff in the area where you live.

Report the identity theft to your financial institution and other creditors.

Tell the prosecuting attorney that if the person who stole your identity if found guilty, you'd like the court to issue you an Order Correcting Public Records.

Send a copy of the police report to the three credit-reporting agencies listed.

Ask businesses to provide you with information about transactions made in your name.

If the identity thief has stolen your checks or made counterfeit checks, and then used those checks to make purchases or pay bills, you will probably be contacted by collection agencies that want you to pay the debts.