Identity theft involves a category of crimes; including burglary, auto prowl, theft, mail theft, check fraud, forgery and criminal impersonation. Victims can be devastated by the effects this crime has on their financial well-being. One act can lead to an almost endless series of crimes. Most losses are not monetary, so damage can be difficult to quantify.
The justice system is often overwhelmed with cases, resulting in ineffective punishment when compared with the number of crimes committed.
Unfortunately, Identity Theft is a problem for everyone living, working, doing business or banking in Clark County. There are things you can do and steps you can take to protect yourself. If you have already been victimized there are resources available to help you. Join us in our efforts to Impact Identity Theft. The following are some basic rules to follow to protect your identity and what to do if you are the victim of identity theft.
Shred it Don't Spread It!
Take care when discarding papers or mail that contains personal information. Any document that has your name, address, social security number or account number can be used by an identity thief. Don’t throw bank or credit card statements in the trash or recycle bin – Shred them. Our motto "Shred it – Don't Spread It" applies to your identity.
Monitor your transactions
- Track credit card or debit purchases and check your bank statements monthly. Report any charges or suspicious transactions immediately to your bank and law enforcement.
- Take care when writing checks and giving them to strangers. Do business in cash at flea markets, garage sales or in personal sales transactions.
- Be sure store clerks verify your ID – write "check ID" on the back of credit or debit cards, and insist that they verify.
Lock your vehicle and leave valuables out of sight
Don't leave checkbooks, wallets, purses, cell phones or valuables in plain view or under a seat. Secure them in the trunk or take them with you. If you leave your car, LOCK IT! 35% of vehicle prowls in Clark County are unforced. Many of those involve the theft of access devices left inside.
Safeguard your mail
Rent a post office box to receive financial mail. Never have boxes of checks mailed to your street address. Thieves often steal new boxes of checks after postal delivery and before residents return home. Have checks deposited directly when possible.
Never place outgoing mail in an unsecured box. The red flag is a sure signal to thieves that there is valuable information contained inside.
What to do if your identity (wallet, purse, checkbook, social security number, etc.) is stolen
- Cancel your credit cards immediately, but the key is having the toll free numbers and your credit card numbers handy so you know whom to call. Keep those where you can find them easily.
- File a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where it was stolen, as this proves to the credit providers you were diligent, and is a first step toward an investigation.
- Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and social security number. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit.
The phone numbers are:
Equifax – 800.525.6285
Experian (formerly TRW) - 800.301.7195
Trans Union - 800.680.7289
Two other important phone numbers:
Social Security Administration Fraud Line – 800.269.0271
Federal Trade Commission – 877-IDTHEFT (877.438.4338)
More Resources to Help Protect Your Identity
To opt out of direct mail offers write:
DMA Mail Pref. Service
P.O. BOX 9008
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008
To opt out of credit card offers call: 888-5-OPTOUT (This service is provided by the FTC.)
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Excellent source of information, resources and other links to sites. One of principal focuses is on identity theft, with a substantial amount of practical information and advocacy. The Fact Sheets are extremely useful.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
A brief summary of how identify theft may occur with links to information on existing laws and pending legislation.
U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG)
Consumer page has links to their May 2000 report on identity theft (Nowhere to Turn: Victims Speak Out on Identity Theft) and to privacy alerts and information on pending legislation and regulations.)
Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
A privacy advocacy group that deals with privacy issues in general, with emphasis on articles and reports on existing law, proposed regulations and pending legislation. Also provides links to other sites and various resources.
Privacy Times published by Evan Hendricks
Contains articles from Privacy Times on companies or practices that it views as a threat to privacy, as well as summaries of legislative and regulatory developments. The link to "How to Protect Your Privacy" in the upper right hand corner contains some useful tips, as well as links to other sites.