Identity theft occurs when someone steals key pieces of personal identifying information. This information may include a name, address, date-of-birth, Social Security number, account numbers, or mother’s maiden name in order to gain access to a person’s financial accounts. This can happen through the mail, over the Internet, or a variety of other ways. Armed with this personal information, an identity thief may open a new credit card or other financial accounts- all in someone else’s name.
Never give personal information over the phone or the Internet unless you initiated the contact. Sandia Area will NEVER ask you for an account number or password via phone, e-mail or text message that we initiated.
Prevention is the most critical element in avoiding fraud. Here are some tips to protect yourself:
- Deposit outgoing mail at a Post Office or a blue U.S. Postal Service collection box, or give it directly to your letter carrier. Don’t leave mail in your mailbox overnight or on weekends.
- Shred anything that contains your name, address or other sensitive data before discarding - including invoices, receipts, statements, personalized letters, catalogs and pre-approved credit offers. Use a cross-cut shredder for the best results.
- Protect your Social Security number! Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Avoid carrying cards that display your Social Security number such as health insurance cards, unless needed to receive care.
- Memorize your passwords; don’t carry them with you. Don’t use your date of birth as your password.
- Use only trusted websites for online transactions. Do not provide credit card numbers or personal information on any website if you are not sure the site is authentic. Choose companies with secure transactions and strong privacy and security policies.
- Sign up for electronic statements. Fraud and identity theft often begin when a sensitive piece of mail like a statement or bill is stolen from an unlocked mailbox. This service means less opportunity for thieves to strike.
- Report lost or stolen credit cards to the issuer immediately.
- Sign your new credit cards — before someone else does.
- Don’t ever leave receipts behind — at ATMs, on counters at financial institutions, or at gasoline pumps.
- Never give personal information over the phone or the Internet unless you initiated the contact.
Despite all efforts to prevent identity fraud, it can still occur. The earlier it is detected, however, the more swiftly action can be taken to stop it. Be alert and take immediate action on the following:
- Check your credit reports as frequently as possible - at least twice a year. Under the FACT Act, U.S. consumers are entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit bureaus. You can do it here.
- Monitor your account balances and activity electronically (at least once per week).
- If you do not have access to online accounts, review paper bank and credit card statements monthly.
- Follow up with companies if you receive bills for merchandise you did not purchase.
- Follow up with businesses or institutions if you fail to receive an expected bill.
- Request a copy of your credit report if applications for credit are turned down for no apparent reason.
- Keep track of credit card expiration dates. Contact the issuer if you don’t get a replacement before they expire.
If you feel you have been a victim of any type of fraud, please contact your financial institution(s) immediately.
- To report a lost or stolen Peak Access Debit Card, call 1-800-543-5073
- To report a lost or stolen Sandia Area Credit Card, call 1-800-325-3678 or International Collect 636-722-7111
- Learn about Sandia Area's Mastercard ID Theft Resolution Services at 800-MASTERCARD.
- Contact the fraud departments of creditors.
- Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission and get a recovery plan at IdentityTheft.gov ►
- If the crime involved the U.S. Mail, report it to your nearest U.S. Postal Inspection Service office.
- If the crime involved counterfeit credit cards or computer hacking, report it to the U.S. Secret Service.
- Check whether the major credit reporting agencies have accounts in your name that were opened without your consent. Ask them to place a “fraud alert” on your file.
- You may be advised to close some or all of your accounts. Change your PIN codes and passwords immediately.
- Keep a record of the names and phone numbers of people with whom you discussed your case, and of all reports and supporting documents.
- Take other appropriate actions, depending on your identity theft situation (e.g., contact the Social Security Administration office to report suspected Social Security number theft, file a report with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service if your mail has been stolen, etc).
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the federal clearinghouse for complaints by victims of identity theft. Although the FTC does not have the authority to bring criminal cases, the Commission assists victims of identity theft by providing them with information to help them resolve the financial problems and other repercussions that can result from identity theft. The FTC also may refer victim complaints to other appropriate government agencies and private organizations for further action. If you have been a victim of identity theft, you can file a complaint with the FTC by contacting the FTC's Consumer Response Center:
Get the federal government’s one-stop resource to help you report and recover from identity theft. Get step-by-step advice, sample letters, and other helpful resources. Recovering from identity theft is easier with a plan and identitytheft.gov can help you.
Toll-free 1-877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338)
Consumer Response Center
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 2058
If you think you have been a victim of fraud or identity theft, you may want to consider contacting one of the nationwide credit reporting companies and place a fraud alert on your credit report. When you place a fraud alert on your credit report at one of the nationwide credit reporting companies, it must notify the others.
800-525-6285 (Fraud Hotline)
www.equifax.com 800-685-1111 (Order a Report)
888-397-3742 (Fraud Hotline)
www.experian.com 888-397-3742 (Order a Report)
800-680-7289 (Fraud Hotline)
www.transunion.com 800-916-8800 (Order a Report)