Identity theft is a serious crime. It occurs when someone uses your address, your name, Social Security number, credit card information, bank account number, or other personal information without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. With your personal information in their possession, identity thieves can establish credit, purchase items or borrow money in your name.
Identity theft affects approximately 10 million Americans each year, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The effects of identity theft can be devastating. Individuals who are affected by it spend months and years to clear their credit record. Identity Theft victims can be denied loans and jobs. There can be high out-of-pocket expenses related to clearing your name.
Four out of five victims do not even know how their identity was stolen. Identity thieves may use a variety of low- and high-tech methods to gain access to your information. They steal purses or wallets containing your identification, credit cards and bank cards. They steal mail including your bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks or tax information. They complete a “change of address” form to divert mail to another location. They steal information from your home. “Dumpster diving” is another method thieves use. They steal your personal information from the trash.
Victims of identity theft often find that someone they know has committed the crime. Identity theft often goes undetected. Within a month of being committed, half of the crimes still remain unnoticed.
You can minimize your risk of being a victim of identity theft in a few ways.
• Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you've initiated the contact or are sure you know whom you're dealing with. Identity thieves may pose as representatives of banks or government agencies to get you to reveal your social security number, mother's maiden name, account numbers, and other identifying information. Learn more about Phishing scams.
• Do not carry your SSN card in your wallet or purse. Leave it in a secure place. Carry only the identification information and the number of credit and debit cards that you'll actually need.
• Find a secure place for all your personal information at home, where your roommates, outside help or service workers cannot access it.
• Drop off your outgoing mail at the post office collection box, rather than in an unsecured mailbox. If you’re planning to be away from home and can’t pick up your mail, call the U.S. Postal Service and request a vacation hold.
• Shred any papers with confidential information before you throw them out – even the junk mail.
• Pay attention to your billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if your bills don't arrive on time. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.
• Reduce the circulation of your information through the mail. Stop receiving prescreened credit offers by calling 1-888-5OPTOUT.
• Check your credit report at least once a year. Many people do not realize they are victims of identity theft until long after the initial crime is committed.
There are several steps you can and should take to protect yourself if you are a victim of identity theft.
• File a report with your local police.
• Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your credit reports.
Equifax: (800) 525-6285
Experian: (888) EXPERIAN (397-3742)
TransUnion: (800) 680-7289
• Contact any credit card companies and banks where your accounts may be at risk.
• Contact government authorities that specialize in identity theft.
FTC Identity Theft Hot Line: (877) IDTHEFT (438-4338)
Social Security Fraud Hot Line: (800) 269-0271
U.S. Postal Inspectors: (800) 372-8347
• Make sure you document your actions. Begin recording the time and money you spend on straightening out identity theft. Keep copies of correspondence and documents related to he theft. Write letters to confirm all phone conversations.
At Champlain National Bank, substantial measures are in place to protect your identity against theft and fraud:
Confidentiality – access to nonpublic information is only granted to employees who need to know that information to provide you with products and services.
Identity Theft Brochure >