Identity theft victimizes millions of Americans and causes devastating harm to those who have been impacted. From loss of income and denial of credit, to the emotional toll identity theft can take, scammers can inflict an untold amount of harm to consumers with little remorse or care for those impacted.
In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) compiles national consumer fraud statistics and reports that identity theft continues to top the list of most complaints received, reporting losses over $1.6 billion to fraud overall.
While no one is immune from being targeted by these thieves, there a number of things you can do to minimize the chances you will become a victim of identity theft while protecting your personal and private identifying information.
Tips for Identity Theft Prevention:
- Be very cautious about giving your personal or financial information to anyone.
- Never provide personal identifying or financial information over the telephone if you did not initiate the call. This includes callers selling goods and services as well as charitable solicitors. Banks, credit card companies, telephone companies and other legitimate creditors do not call to "verify" account numbers or to ask for your social security number or other personal information.
- Never provide personal identifying or financial information over the telephone to anyone claiming to represent a contest or sweepstakes promotion. It is illegal to market a foreign lottery in the United States. These calls are always fraudulent.
- Never carry your social security card in your purse or wallet.
- Never have your social security number printed on your checks, driver’s license or other financial documents. See “Social Security Numbers” section.
- Never respond to e-mail or “pop-up” messages on your computer claiming some problem with a credit card, Internet, or other account. Promptly contact your real credit card company or ISP to verify that there are no problems with your account.
- Use a "cross-cut" shredder and get in the habit of shredding all personal or financial documents before placing them in the trash. Shred copies of bills and invoices after you have paid them, bank statements (including your cancelled checks), investment or retirement account statements, pre-approved credit card or loan applications (especially those that come with a negotiable check attached), medical statements of any kind, and any other documents that contain information about you or your finances.
- Password-protect all credit card accounts that allow it. Do not use common numbers or personal information (like birth dates or part of your social security number) or commonly chosen words (such as a child’s, a spouse’s, or pet’s name) for passwords.
- Control access to your credit history. Remove your name from mailing lists for pre-approved lines of credit by participating in the credit bureaus' "Opt-Out" program. Call 1-888-5-“OPT OUT” (1-888-567-8688) to enroll. You will need to provide your social security number to verify that you are making the request, but this is a legitimate use of such information.
- Be careful with your incoming and outgoing mail. If you don't have a secure, locked mailbox, mail your bills from a curbside public mailbox or directly at your local post office. Never leave outgoing mail in an unsecured mailbox overnight
- Arrange to pick up new checks at your bank. NEVER have boxes of new checks delivered to your home.
- Take all credit card or ATM receipts with you after you pay for goods or services. Do not just leave them behind or throw them away in the nearest trashcan. Destroy them in your cross-cut shredder when you get home.
- Write to your bank, insurance company and other financial institutions you do business with and tell them not to share your customer information with unaffiliated third parties. Under federal law, they are required to honor this request.
- Remove your name from national direct mail advertising lists. Contact the Direct Marketing Association here.
- To dramatically reduce telephone solicitations, sign up with the Colorado No-Call List.
- You can participate in the National No-Call Registry or by calling toll-free at 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236).
If you believe you have been victimized by Identity Theft, contact the Colorado Bureau of Investigations Identity Theft Unit online or by telephone at 1-855-443-3489 (toll free).