What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
How Do Thieves Steal an Identity?
Identity theft starts with the misuse of your personally identifying information such as your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information. For identity thieves, this information is as good as gold.
Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information, including:
- Rummaging through trash
They rummage through trash, aka "dumpster diving," looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
- Changing your address
They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
- Old-fashioned stealing
They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.
They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources.
How To Prevent Identity Theft
The best way to combat identify theft is to prevent it. The following are some relatively simple, cost-effective steps to help you fight this invasive crime:
- The best way to prevent identity theft is to monitor your accounts and bank statements each month. If you check your credit report regularly, you may be able to limit the damage caused by identity theft.
- Shred all personal documents (i.e., credit card offers, credit card receipts) before discarding them.
- Request copies of your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus once a year and review them carefully.
- Secure your Social Security card–but not on your person or in your wallet.
- Only carry necessary credit cards, and make sure they are all signed. Keep a photocopy of the front and back of all cards in case they must be reported lost or stolen.
- Secure your PINs (personal identification numbers)–but not on your person or in your wallet.
- Check your credit card statements thoroughly and contact issuers immediately if an expected statement is not received.
- Avoid leaving outbound mail in an open or unlocked mailbox where it can easily be taken.
- When creating passwords and PINs, avoid the use of the last four digits of Social Security numbers, birth dates, middle name, pet's name, consecutive numbers or anything else that could easily be discovered by thieves.
- Remove your name from the marketing lists of the three credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian (formerly TRW) and Trans Union. This will limit the number of pre-approved offers of credit you are sent. For more information or to remove your name, visit the OptOutPrescreen.com website or call 888-567-8688.
- Do not leave passwords and PINs out in plain sight–secure them.
If It Happens to You
In the unfortunate event that you are a victim of identity theft, here are some steps you can take:
- Add a password to your record at Thrivent Financial Investor Services Incorporated which must be provided when you call our Interaction Centers. The password will be used to further authenticate and validate your identity when you call into our Interaction Centers. You may add a password to your record by calling one of the Interaction Centers at 800-847-4836.
- File a report with the local police department. Be sure to get the report number and a copy of the report.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your credit reports. Fraud alerts can help prevent an identity thief from opening any more accounts in your name. Contact the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies below to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert. The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report, too. If you do not receive a confirmation from a company, you should contact that company directly to place a fraud alert.
- Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently:
- Call and speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each company. Follow up in writing, and include copies (NOT originals) of supporting documents. It's important to notify credit card companies and banks in writing. Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the company received and when. Keep a file of your correspondence and enclosures.
- When you open new accounts, use new Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) and passwords. Avoid using easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
- You can file a complaint with the FTC using the online complaint form; or call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338); TTY: 866-653-4261; or write to: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20580. Be sure to call the Hotline to update your complaint if you have any additional information or problems.
- By sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC, you will provide important information that can help law enforcement officials across the nation track down identity thieves and stop them. The FTC can refer victims' complaints to other government agencies and companies for further action, as well as investigate companies for violations of laws the agency enforces. Additionally, you can provide a printed copy of your online complaint form to the police to incorporate into their police report. The printed FTC ID Theft Complaint, in conjunction with the police report, can constitute an Identity Theft Report and entitle you to certain protections. This Identity Theft Report can be used to: (1) permanently block fraudulent information from appearing on your credit report, (2) ensure that debts do not reappear on your credit report, (3) prevent a company from continuing to collect debts that result from identity theft, and (4) place an extended fraud alert on your credit report.
- Keep a log of all conversations. It is extremely important to document all contact names, dates, times, and phone numbers.
- List any money paid out for mailings, stamps, certified mail or other expenses.
- Confirm conversations in writing.
- Send correspondence by certified mail, return receipt requested. The number one excuse used by companies to deny any responsibility is, "We never received it."
- Keep copies of everything pertaining to the case.
- Contact each credit grantor who has allowed a fraudulent account, and tell them you did not open that account. Have them close the account, and ask for written verification that it has been closed and will be removed from your credit file. If you open new accounts, a unique password should be established for identification purposes.
- Contact your financial institution's fraud department to make them aware.
- Call the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General's Fraud Hotline at 800-269-0271 or visit them online.
For additional information on identity theft, please visit IdentityTheft.gov.