THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TEXAS
Ken Paxton
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Preventing Identity Theft

Protecting your identity begins by reducing the number of places where your personal information can be found. You can remove yourself from many mailing lists for up to five years by contacting the Direct Marketing Association. There is a processing fee for this service, however you can opt-out of pre-screened credit offers for free through www.optoutprescreen.com. Other free services include the state and federal no-call lists, and the Network Advertising Initiative's opt-out list which opts out of major online tracking companies.

Next reduce the number of credit cards you have and only carry the cards that you intend to use. If possible use credit cards that have your photo on them.

If any of your credit card companies send random-issue convenience checks, request in writing to be removed from that mailing list. Also ask your bank about its privacy and information policies. Find out if your bank provides your account information to third parties. Ask to opt out of this practice or request that they notify you in advance. If you receive an offer for a pre-approved credit card or loan but aren't interested, shred the application form before throwing it away.

Do not carry your Social Security card with you unless you need it. Provide your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary. Ask if another number can be used instead. Also never print your Social Security number on your checks. If your workplace displays your Social Security number on a timecard or other place open to public view, ask them to change this procedure.

Use passwords and install an electronic firewall to keep burglars and Internet hackers from accessing your computer. Make sure you use anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer to check for malicious programs that you may have inadvertently downloaded - and keep that software up to date along with your web browser. Check with your Internet Service Provider about any free virus, spyware, and firewall software they may provide. Beware of new scams such as Phishing (false emails pretending to be a trusted company or financial institution). Do not give your credit card number or other financial information over the Internet unless you are certain you have a secure connection. A secure connection will have an "s" after the "http" web address and an icon of a "closed lock" or "key" at the bottom of the screen. And if you access the Internet over a wireless connection, be careful not to transmit personally identifying information if the connection is unsecure (did not require a password) or untrusted. Save any transaction or confirmation numbers from Internet purchases and make a note of the time and contents of the order. Review the privacy policy of any company you deal with. Request that they not share your financial information.

You can also reduce the chance that you will be a victim of identity theft by taking the following precautions:

  • Minimize the amount of personal financial information you carry. Memorize passwords and PIN numbers. Do not carry them.
  • Keep financial information in a secure place in your home. Shred documents before throwing them away. Purchase a cross-cut shredder to better protect your information.
  • Do not give sensitive information to unsolicited callers. Legitimate businesses will not make unsolicited calls asking for your Social Security or bank account numbers. Caller ID information can be spoofed, so do not rely on the name and number that is on your box.
  • Shield your hand when entering your PIN at a bank ATM or when making long distance calls with a calling card. Take your ATM slip and shred it before throwing it away.
  • Pick up new checks or credit cards at your bank rather than having them delivered to your home. Do not print your driver's license or social security number on your checks.
  • If your bank or credit card statement does not arrive on time, call to make sure they sent it to the proper address. Also contact the Post Office to see if a change of address has been filed in your name. A thief may steal or divert your statements to hide the theft.

Because of the nature of identity theft, you may not realize your identity has been stolen until much later. By then, your good name and credit history can be in ruins. Because nothing can guarantee you protection from identity thieves, you should also be vigilant to detect theft as quickly as possible.

Prevent Or Curtail Further Identity Theft Abuses By Contacting The Following Agencies

  1. Local Texas Department Of Public Safety Driver License Office
  2. Social Security Administration (SSA)
  3. Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  4. U.S. Postal Inspection Service
  5. U.S. Passport Agency

An identity thief may use your personal identifying information to fraudulently obtain a driver's license, file for bankruptcy, apply for social security benefits or even get a passport. To head off such possibilities, contact the following agencies and follow their procedures to limit the damage an identity thief can do.

Contact your local Department of Public Safety Driver License Office

The Department of Public Safety (DPS) can check their database to determine the last time a driver's license was issued in your name. If that issue date is more recent than the last time you personally received a driver's license, you should immediately report the fraud. Your local Driver License Office will determine the best course of action for your individual situation. Determine which DPS Driver License Office you should contact via the Internet or by contacting the Texas Department of Public Safety Driver License Division Customer Service Bureau.

Texas Department of Public Safety
Driver License Division
(512) 424-2600 (English)
(512) 424-7181 (Spanish)
www.txdps.state.tx.us

Contact the Social Security Administration

If you believe your Social Security number has been compromised, you should contact the Social Security Administration. Order a copy of your Personal Earnings and Benefits Estimate Statement (PEBES) and compare it to your work history. If you notice any employers or earnings you do not recognize, someone may be using your Social Security number for employment. Report any discrepancies to the Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General and to the Federal Trade Commission.

If necessary, the Social Security Administration may change your Social Security number. However, changing your number will be done only as a last resort when a very specific set of criteria have been met. Contact the Social Security Administration directly to determine the best course of action for you.

Office of the Inspector General
Social Security Administration
Suite 300 Altmeyer Building
6401 Security Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21235
www.ssa.gov
(800) 269-0271

Contact the Internal Revenue Service

If you have reason to believe an identity thief has used your Social Security number to fraudulently file for a tax refund or has compromised your taxes in any way, contact your local Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Taxpayer Assistance Center immediately. IRS personnel will help you determine what damage has been done to your tax record and help you ascertain what your next step should be to correct the problem.

Internal Revenue Service
(800) 829-1040
www.irs.gov

Contact the Postal Inspection Service

If you have reason to believe an identity thief stole anything from your mailbox or that the U.S. Mail was involved in the crime in any way, report it to the nearest U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the law enforcement branch of the U.S. Postal Service and handles all investigations into U.S. Mail theft and fraud.

United States Postal Inspection Service
Criminal Investigations Service Center
ATTN: Mail Fraud
222 S. Riverside Plaza Suite 1250
Chicago, IL 60606-6100
(800) 372-8347
www.usps.com

Contact Passport Services

If you believe an identity thief has used your identity to obtain a U.S. Passport in your name, report it to the United States Department of State. The threat of terrorism in America makes this a critical step. Reporting the crime will cause the passport to be rendered useless to the thief, as it will be invalidated once it has been reported as stolen, missing or fraudulent.

U.S. Department of State - Passport Services
Consular Lost/Stolen Passport Section
1111 19th Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 955-0430
http://travel.state.gov/passport