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Here are some facts about identity theft. Some may surprise you, but all of them will help protect you in the long run.
Myth #1: Free Credit Reports
As you've surfed the web, you've no doubt been bombarded with ads for FREE credit reports. But don't be fooled! There's nothing FREE about their services. Many will entice people to sign up for a product that comes with strings attached. Most will request a credit card number to enroll and then will charge you if you don't cancel the service within a specific grace period.
There is only one legitimate source where you can obtain your truly FREE credit report, www.annualcreditreport.com. Federal law requires each of three major credit reporting agencies to give you a copy of your credit report every year at no charge.
To protect your credit, review your credit reports at least once a year. We recommend "staggering" them by pulling only one report every four months. For example, pull your Equifiax report in January, your Experian report in May, and your TransUnion report in September. Make certain all of the information contained in them is accurate and up-to-date. Pay particular attention to unfamiliar information which could be a sign that you are a possible victim of identity theft.
Myth #2: Hotel Keys are the Gateway to Your Personal Information
Several years ago, a story began making its rounds on the internet about thieves with card readers stealing hotel guests' information -- including credit card numbers, names, addresses -- all supposedly encoded on the key's magnetic strip.
Modern hotel key cards only contain the information necessary to open the door to your room, and nothing more. Independent tests of hundreds of cards from hotels, motels, and resorts have confirmed that not a single card contained "personally identifiable information." With that said, some hotels with older systems, and many outside of the U.S. do encode credit card information on the card.
Bottom line: Better safe than sorry. Take the card with you after you check out of the hotel, then shred it when you get home before tossing it out.
Myth #3: Only Adults are Victims of Identity Theft
This is a dangerous myth. The sad truth is, children are prime targets of identity theft. An estimated half million children are victims of identity theft each year. A perpetrator will steal a child's identity for financial gain, for criminal identity purposes, or for "identity cloning," in which a child's identity is sold on the black market.
Children are targets for identity theft because the crime will likely go unnoticed until years later when they can't get a credit card or driver's license, open a bank account, or apply for a college or car loan. What makes this problem even more tragic is that many ID-theft criminals are the same people who should be protecting children: parents, relatives, or other acquaintances.
Learn more about how to protect your child's identity HERE.
Myth #4: I'm Safe From ID Theft Because I Check My Credit Card and Bank Statements Every Month
Financial fraud is the most common form of ID theft, but thieves can also use your identity in ways that won't show up on credit card or bank statements.
Medical identity theft involves the illegal use of a person's name, Social Security number, and insurance information to receive medical services or goods. Thieves may obtain your medical insurance data from a lost or stolen medical insurance card or from a discarded insurance statement, or information could be stolen from a healthcare provider or facility. Sometimes organized crime rings are aided by greedy health-care workers (even nurses and doctors).
Criminals can acquire your personal information in any number of ways: via lost or stolen personal papers, credit cards or ID cards, through Internet or phone scams, or by buying your information from other thieves.
Scams known as "phishing" come in the form of e-mail messages or phone calls designed to make you share your personal information. For example, you may receive an email from the IRS saying you have a tax refund. The e-mail message invites you to click on a Web link that takes you to a bogus IRS site. To get your refund, you are asked to enter your Social Security number, credit card data, and other personal information. Or, you may receive a phone call from a court official, claiming you did not report for jury duty, and will say that there is a warrant out for your arrest. To "verify" your identity, the caller will ask for your Social Security number, birth date, and even a credit card number. He will offer to "clear up the mess" for a fine, which you pay by (suprise, suprise) credit card.
Note: Reference to commercial products, services, or trade names within information provided by Georgia Power Northwest Federal Credit Union does not constitute an endorsement by Georgia Power Northwest Federal Credit Union and does not imply discrimination against similar products or services.
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