How to Protect Yourself
With identity theft on the rise, the Bexar County Criminal District Attorney's Office 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, 1 in 6 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
- You receive bills from a credit account you did not open
- You see unauthorized charges on your credit, long distance, or bank accounts
- You are contacted by a collection agency regarding a debt you did not incur
- Checks are missing from your checkbook
- Bank and credit billing statements arrive late
- Bank and credit statements stop arriving
- Credit reports show accounts you did not open
- You are turned down for credit
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's Office for prosecution. Find law enforcement agencies in the Bexar County area.
Contact Credit Reporting Bureaus
Contact the 3 primary credit reporting bureaus to have a security alert or freeze placed on your report:
Ph: 1-800-685-1111 (order report) Ph: 1-800-525-6285 (report fraud)
Ph: 1-800-888-4213 (request report) Ph: 1-800-680-7289 (report fraud)
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.
Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft Hotline: