Over the past several years, identity theft has been on the rise. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that between 1998 and 2003 approximately 27 million American adults have had their identity stolen in some way.1 In 2005 in New Jersey over 6,500 people were the victim of identity theft.2
The Monmouth County Sheriff's Office is making a concerted effort to combat identity theft in Monmouth County. This page is designed to present the residents of Monmouth County with the information they need to protect themselves from this type of crime.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity Theft occurs when someone uses your personal identifying information for his or her own personal gain. This includes things such as using your credit card number to make unauthorized charges, opening credit cards in your name and not paying the bills, opening bank accounts in your name, taking out loans in your name, and establishing phone, wireless, or Internet service in your name, among others. In New Jersey, the most likely form identity theft takes is credit card fraud. In 2005, 33% of the identity theft in New Jersey was credit card fraud, while the national average was 26%.3
How Does Identity Theft Happen?
Identity thieves employ many different methods to obtain someone's personal information. Some of these methods are increasingly high-tech, though most are simple and easy to accomplish. Below are the most common methods identity thieves use.
- Stealing your wallet or purse.
- Stealing your personal information from your home.
- Stealing your mail.
- Obtaining the information from a business by stealing it while they work, bribing employees, or hacking the records.
- Posing as someone who has a legal right to your information, such as a landlord or an employer, to get your credit report.
- "Skimming" - capturing your credit or debit card number in a data storage device attached to a credit card machine or ATM.
- "Phishing"/"Pretexting" - posing as a legitimate company that needs your information, either on the phone or online.
- "Dumpster Diving" - rummaging through disposed of trash for personal information (i.e. financial statements or credit card receipts, etc.)
What Can You Do About Identity Theft?
To Protect Yourself from Becoming a Victim
In order to keep from becoming a victim, you should do the following:
What to Do if You've Been a Victim of Identity Theft
- Review your financial and account statements promptly and carefully.
- Review your credit report annually.
- Password protect your accounts.
- Secure your personal information inside your house.
- Ask about information security procedures at work and other institutions that collect your information.
- Be cautious about who you give your information to. Verify that the person you are speaking with is affiliated with the business, whether on the phone or online.
- Put mail in postal collection boxes or drop it off at the local post office instead of leaving it in your mailbox at home. Remove incoming mail from your mailbox promptly.
- Shred credit card receipts, bank statements, and other items bearing your personal information before disposing them.
- Only provide your Social Security Number when absolutely necessary.
- Be aware of your surroundings when using ATMs. Only use bank ATMs; avoid the stand-alone machines.
- File a report with your local police department. (In New Jersey, your local police department is required to take your complaint and provide you with a copy of the report. N.J.S.A. 2C:21-17.6)
- Place a security freeze on your credit report with all three credit reporting agencies. N.J.S.A. 56:11-46, et. seq. A security freeze will prevent your credit report from being accessed by most potential creditors. For more information on placing a security freeze on your credit reports, and the consequences of the freeze, please visit the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance "Security Freeze" page at http://www.state.nj.us/dobi/creditfreeze.htm
- Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission.
Where Can I Find More Information? How Do I Contact these Agencies?
Federal Trade Commission
You can file a complaint online at www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/ or call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline at 1 877/ IDTHEFT (1 877/438-4338); TTY 1 866/ 653-4261, or write Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.
Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies
- Equifax - 1 800/ 525-6285; www.equifax.com/home/; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, Georgia 30374-0241.
- Experian - 1 888/ EXPERIAN (1 888/ 397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, Texas 75013.
- TransUnion - 1 800/ 680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, California 92834-6790.
Check Verification Companies
- Telecheck - 1 800/ 710-9898
- Certegy, Inc. - 1 800/ 437-5120
- SCAN - 1 800/ 262-7771
- Chex Systems, Inc. - 1 800/ 428-9623; www.consumerdebit.com; Fax 602/ 659-2197; Attn: Consumer Relations, 7805 Hudson Road, Suite 100, Woodbury, MN 55125.
Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
United States Secret Service
United States Social Security Administration
To receive your annual free credit report contact:
Annual Credit Report Request Service at www.annualcreditreport.com; 1 877/ 322-8228; P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, Georgia 30348-5281
1 Federal Trade Commission, Federal Trade Commission - Identity Theft Survey Report, http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/pdf/ synovate_report.pdf (accessed September 29, 2005).
2 Federal Trade Commission, Identity Theft Victim Complaint Data, Figures and Trends in New Jersey, January 1 - December 31, 2005, http://www.consumer.gov/idtheft/pdf/ CY2005/New Jersey CY-2005.pdf (accessed February 22, 2007).
Note: This safety tip is courtesy of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.