With the recent security breaches in companies holding your personal and sensitive information, Chief Mark Weeks would like to offer some tips to help protect our citizens. Identity theft is on the rise with criminals even paying other criminals to get access to personal information. “The best protection is to lockdown your most vulnerable data,” says Chief Weeks. “Criminals will exploit your social security number and corresponding personal information for their financial gain.” Although many identity theft protection services exist, there are some little to no cost methods that are very effective at thwarting identity theft. Here is a list of things Citizens may do be proactive in preventing identity theft:
- Password-protect your computer and set a unique password or code for each company you do business with. Most companies try to default your password to the last 4 of your social or your mother’s maiden name. Change them to something that criminals can’t find on-line such as a random number you know or an uncommon word that is hard to guess. Passwords are the first line of protection in keeping criminals from accessing or changing your personal information.
- Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and pull your credit report from all three major credit bureaus for FREE. This service was implemented by federal law so that Citizens may ensure the accuracy of entries on their credit report. If you notice unauthorized entries, consider filing a Police report and disputing the entries with the appropriate credit bureau.
- Request a credit freeze from each of the major credit bureaus. This service is FREE if you have been the victim of identity fraud or theft. If you have had your wallet stolen and it contained your identification documents of ID, you would qualify for this free service. Contact the credit bureaus and be able to provide a copy of your Police report showing that you were a victim. Victims may also request a fraud alert be placed on their credit report to alert potential companies that your information has been compromised. Even if you have not been a victim, you may still request a credit freeze at little to no cost. Simply contact the credit bureaus listed at www.annualcreditreport.com to find out how the cost and what steps you need to take.
- Shred or destroy any documents with sensitive personal information once you are done with them. Papers such as bank statements, bills, and medical records often contain enough information to give a thief access to your identity. Securely erase or destroy the hard drives of any computers before donating or discarding.
There are many ways you can effectively prevent becoming a victim of identity theft. The above are not all inclusive, but a good start. If you feel that you may have become a victim, contact the DeFuniak Springs Police at 892-8511 or your local law enforcement agency. Victims may also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission by going to www.identitytheft.gov.
- Monitor your mail. Keep a list of all of your reoccurring statements and bills so that you know when they should arrive. If bills or other items seem to be late arriving or are not received, this may be a sign that someone has changed your mailing address without your knowledge. Contact the companies directly to verify that your information is correct.