Identity Theft Protection

Credit Card, Padlock And Laptop

Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity theft tops the list of consumer complaints that are reported to the FTC and other enforcement agencies every year. One of the most common identity crimes is credit card fraud, where a thief gets your card number and makes unauthorized purchases. Normally this can be resolved with minimal cost and inconvenience to you, beyond having to close the account and open a new one. The more serious threat is that a perpetrator will acquire enough of your personal information to open new accounts or borrow money in your name. You may not become aware of this until you review your credit report, or until you are turned down for a loan.   While some identity thieves use sophisticated internet-based schemes to hijack your personal information, most of them get it the old-fashioned way: by stealing your wallet, purse, mail or trash.

Following are steps you can take to minimize your exposure to this type of fraud:

  1. Carry only the ID and credit cards you need. Don’t have your Social Security Number (SSN) or phone number printed on your checks, and don’t carry your Social Security card with you.
  2. Protect your mail and trash. Use a locking mailbox, and deposit outgoing mail at a secure collection box. Use a crosscut shredder to shred all personal documents including credit card offers or applications, charge receipts, bank statements, insurance forms. Shred anything with your SSN or account numbers.
  3. Review your credit report regularly. You are entitled to a free copy annually from each of the three major credit bureaus. Their contact information follows.
  4. Avoid giving out your SSN; ask if an alternate identifying number can be used.
  5. If you have children, monitor their credit reports and safeguard their SSN’s as well. Be especially alert if they begin receiving credit offers in the mail.

When using the Internet:

  1. Safeguard your personal information. Don’t give out your SSN, account number or PIN to anyone via phone or e-mail unless you initiated the contact. Thieves may pose as representatives of banks, stores or even government agencies when “phishing” for your personal information.       Legitimate businesses will never request your information this way. If you want to verify the status of your account, call the business or access their website using your browser. Never use an e-mail link to access a site where you’ll be providing personal information.
  2.  Use up-to-date virus and firewall protection on your PC.
  3.  Use password protection on your accounts whenever possible. 

Personal information has been compromised by hackers breaking into large databases at banks and even the IRS. There is not much we as consumers can do to prevent this. We are fortunate in California to have both credit freeze legislation and security breach notification. The first allows any person to put a freeze on their credit report so that no one can view your file until you release it (free to victims of ID theft; $10 to others). The second requires disclosure to affected parties when any personal data is lost or stolen. Many states don’t have these protections, and there are currently no Federal laws regarding credit freeze and disclosure. Federal law does require credit card companies to absorb most of the losses if your credit card is used fraudulently. In many cases, the card issuer will alert you to a suspicious pattern of activity in your account.

What to do if your personal information is compromised:

  1. Contact one of the three credit rating agencies listed below and ask them to place a 90-day fraud alert on your accounts. Request a free copy of your credit report. Follow up with a written request by certified mail, and keep a copy.
  2. Call the security departments of your creditors and close accounts that have been tampered with. Have them marked “closed at customer’s request.” Ask not to be held responsible for accounts you didn’t open.       Again, follow up with a written request by certified mail, and keep a copy for your records.
  3. File a police report. Include copies of credit reports showing fraudulent activity, and your communications with creditors. Send copies of the police report to the credit bureaus. Under California law, once you do this they are required to remove the fraudulent accounts from your credit report. You can also ask them to notify anyone who has requested your credit report in the last six months to alert them to disputed information contained in the report.
  4. With the police report, include a request to the credit bureau to place a security freeze on your credit report so it can’t be accessed by anyone until you release it (you’ll need to release it before you apply for any new credit, insurance or loans).
  5. Fill out a complaint form at the Federal Trade Commission website (below). Send it to the credit bureaus and your creditors.
  6. Monitor your credit report and account statements carefully.

Remember, most identity thieves are opportunists. You don’t need to make your home and your PC into a fortress to defeat them; you just need to be more vigilant than the average consumer. Safeguard your information, mail and trash; monitor your credit reports and statements, and you’ll be more secure than most. If your credit information is compromised, follow the steps above, and keep good records. Identity theft is largely preventable, and also curable with patience and a good plan.


Credit bureaus: – Phone 800-525-6285 –  Phone 888-397-3742 – Phone 800-680-7289

Free credit report: call 877-322-8228 or go to (NOT – that is actually a fee-based monitoring service)

Online resources                      FTC online complaint form            Information on your rights and how to freeze your credit report                     Privacy Rights Clearinghouse


NOTE: The information being provided is strictly as a courtesy. These individuals or outside entities are not affiliated with, nor endorsed by LPL Financial. When you link to any of the web sites provided here, you are leaving this web site. We make no representation as to the completeness or accuracy of information provided at these web sites.

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If you need some help understanding the options in your particular situation, please don’t hesitate to call us at 408-551-6100 or toll free 800-927-8314 and ask to speak with one of our financial advisors.

Best Regards,

Retirement Capital Strategies
A Registered Investment Advisor
1190 Saratoga Ave, Ste. 140
San Jose, CA 95129
Tel (408) 551-6100

Source: This article was written by Margaret (Peggy) Stephan, CFP® – LPL Registered Representative at Retirement Capital Strategies.

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