Identity Theft
and
How to Protect Yourself

With identity theft on the rise, Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed would like to share the following information about identity theft and how to prevent it.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft. Criminals no longer steal your wallet or purse for cash - now they steal your name.

Approximately 15 million United States residents have their identities used fraudulently each year with financial losses totaling upwards of $50 billion.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in six American citizens can expect to be victims of identity theft this year alone.

How Can Someone Steal Your Identity?

ID Theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information, without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Criminals will get your personal information by stealing credit card applications, bank statements, or checks from your trash or mail. Criminals will also have your mail forwarded to a different address by completing a change of address form. Some criminals will hack into corporate databases to receive your information and others will steal the information from within a company. Computers and the internet have become a tool for criminals in their search to steal information. Internet scammers will use a high tech method called “Phishing” that uses spam and pop-up messages to trick you into disclosing your personal information.

ID Theft is a serious crime and people whose identities have been taken can spend years cleaning up the mess these criminal have made of their good name and credit. Victims may lose their home and cars. Often, victims cannot be approved for loans or miss job opportunities due to bad credit caused by identity theft. Some victims even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit.

Warning Signs of Identity Theft

What to do If You are a Victim of Identity Theft

File a police report with your local law enforcement agency and keep a copy of that report. Banks and credit agencies require this report before they will acknowledge a theft has occurred. Furnish as much documentation as you can to prove your case. Debt collection letters, credit reports, and any other evidence. Give the agency copies of your documents. If there is enough evidence and a suspect has been identified, the investigating agency will present the case to the District Attorney for prosecution. Click the link below to find out about law enforcement agencies in the Bexar County area.

Law enforcement agencies in the Bexar County area

Contact the three primary credit reporting bureaus to have a security alert or freeze placed on your report.

EXPERIAN

P.O. Box 2104

Allen, TX 75013-2104

www.experian.com

888.397.3742

EQUIFAX

P.O. Box 740241

Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

www.equifax.com

800.685.1111 (order report)

800.525.6285 (report fraud)

TRANS UNION

P.O. Box 2000

Chester, PA 19022-2000

www.transunion.com

800.888.4213 (request report)

800.680.7289 (report fraud)

Request a copy of your credit report and review it for unauthorized account activity.

Report unauthorized charges and accounts to the appropriate credit issuers and credit bureaus immediately by phone and in writing. Cancel these accounts.

If your wallet or purse is stolen, immediately cancel your credit and debit cards and get replacements.

Put a “stop payment” on all lost or stolen checks.

Follow up in writing with all contacts you've made on the phone or in person.

Keep copies of all correspondence or forms you send.

Write down the name of anyone you spoke with, what he or she said, and the date the conversation occurred.

Keep original documentation and only send copies.

Keep the documentation even after the case is closed. Errors can reappear on your credit report.

Do not give out your information over the phone if someone calls you. You may receive a phone call from someone posing as a bank representative or law enforcement official. You have no way of knowing who is really on the other end of the line.

If another person is arrested and falsely uses your name or other personal information, Texas law allows you to have your information expunged from the arrest record. Contact the Crime Records Division at the Texas Department of Pubic Safety (DPS) by calling (512) 424-5258, or visit their web site at www.txdps.state.tx.us

The Federal Trade Commission or FTC, has authority to prosecute identity theft at the federal level. You can report ID Theft to the FTC by calling 877.IDTHEFT (877.438.4338), or visit their web site at www.ftc.gov

How to Protect Your Identity

Minimize the amount of personal information you carry with you. Always memorize your passwords or PIN numbers instead of carrying them with you.

Keep personal financial information in a secure place in your home. SHRED or destroy identifying information before throwing it away.

Do not give out sensitive information to unsolicited callers. Most legitimate businesses will not ask for your Social Security or bank account numbers.

Pick up new checks or a new or reissued credit card at your bank rather than having them mailed to your home. Do not have your Driver's License number or Social Security number printed on your checks.

If you do not receive your bank or credit card statement in the mail on time, call the issuer to make sure they are being sent to the correct address. Also contact the Post Office to see if a change of address has been filed in your name.

Computers and Internet Security

If you store financial or personal information on your computer, use a password to protect it. Install a firewall to keep hackers from accessing your computer over the internet. Do not give out your credit card number or other financial information over the internet unless you are certain you have a secure server connection. This should include an “s” after the “http” web address and an icon of a “closed lock” or “key” at the bottom of your internet browser. Always save your transaction or confirmation number given to you by the business and make a note of the date/time of your transaction and what you ordered. Make sure your computer has all the latest security updates for your operating system. You should also have an updated program for virus protection.

Links to Sites with More Information About Identity Theft



Federal Trade Commission ID Theft Info

Facts for Businesses

Information for Law Enforcement Investigations

How Not to Get Hooked by a "Phishing" Scam

Texas Attorney General ID Theft Info


Texas Penal Code 32.51 Fraudulent Use Or Possession of Identifying Information  PDF icon


Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Hotline:    877.IDTHEFT (438.4338)