Identity theft (Louisiana R.S. 14:67.16) is the intentional use or possession or transfer or attempted use with fraudulent intent by any person of any personal identifying information of another person to obtain, possess, or transfer, whether contemporaneously or not, credit, money, goods, services, or any thing else of value without the authorization or consent of the other person.
Examples of Personal Identifiers:
|Social Security Number||Driver’s License Number|
|Checking Account Number||Savings Account Number|
|Credit Card Number||Debit Card Number|
|Electronic Identification Number||Digital Signatures|
|Birth Certificate||Mother’s Maiden Name|
|Armed Forces Identification Number||Home Address/Phone Number|
Methods of Identity Theft
thefts of purses or wallets — theft of mail — shoulder surfing — dumpster diving — computer intrusions — email or telephone scams — theft of documents/business records — use of skimmers — use of ATM traps — tampered POS terminals — phishing — necrolarceny
- Keep only the items that you absolutely need in your purse or wallet. Do not carry your SSN or any credit or debit cards unnecessarily.
- Drop your outgoing mail in a secured post office receptacle, and if you use a private mailbox, check your incoming mail as soon as is practicable after the mail has been delivered. If you will be away from home for an extended period, ask the post office to hold your mail until your return.
- When using an ATM, punching in your PIN at a checkout counter, or using a calling card at a phone booth, use your body to shield the keypad in order to prevent shoulder surfers from viewing your personal identifying numbers.
- Shred your mail before you discard it. To significantly reduce the amount of unsolicited pre-approved credit card offers, call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688). The three major credit bureaus use the same number to allow consumers to choose not to receive pre-screened credit offers. You can also notify the three major credit bureaus that you do not want your personal information shared for promotional purposes by writing to:
- Equifax, Inc., Options, PO Box 740123, Atlanta, GA. 30374-0123
- Experian, Consumer Opt-Out, 701 Experian Parkway, Allen, TX. 75013
- TransUnion, Marketing List Opt Out, PO Box 97328, Jackson, MS. 39288-7328
- Additionally, you may opt out of receiving direct mail marketing from many national companies for five years by writing to Direct Marketing Association, Mail Preference Service, PO Box 643, Carmel, NY. 10512.
- Update your computer’s virus protection software regularly. Don’t download files from strangers or click on hyperlinks from people you don’t know. Use a firewall and a secure browser (software that encrypts or scrambles information you send over the internet). Try not to store financial information on your laptop unless absolutely necessary. If you must, use a strong password, a combination of numbers and upper and lower case letters. Avoid using an automatic log-in feature that saves your user name and password. Delete any personal information stored on your computer before you dispose of it by using a “wipe” utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive and make your files unrecoverable. Read website privacy policies.
- Know that legitimate businesses do not contact consumers by telephone or email to request personal information. To be safe, assume that any business that asks you to provide personal information via telephone or email is attempting to perpetrate a fraud. You may contact the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce telemarketing calls at home by visiting www.donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the phone you wish to register. You may also opt out of receiving unsolicited email by completing the Direct Marketing Association’s online form at www.dmaconsumers.org/offemaillist.html.
- Your employer and some private businesses, such as doctor’s offices, banks, or finance companies, may request your SSN for wage and reporting purposes, credit checks, or for general record keeping. Before you provide this information, ask these questions: Why do you need it? How will it be used? How will you protect it from being stolen? What will happen if I don’t provide it to you? After receiving satisfactory answers, you can make an informed decision as to whether or not you should provide the requested information.
- Be ever vigilant when using your credit or debit cards in stores or restaurants. Keep a close eye on the device through which your card is passed and alert the store manager and police should you observe any employee run your card through two scanning devices. The first is necessary. The second is storing the information contained within the magnetic strip on your card for later decryption and use.
- If an ATM machine does not accept your card after your first attempt, do not try again. If possible, notify the bank or go to another ATM machine. If your card becomes trapped inside an ATM machine, immediately notify the bank and/or call the toll-free customer service number to have your card cancelled. An identity thief may have installed an ATM trap to collect your card for later use.
- Some identity thieves modify point of sale terminals to store the information contained on the magnetic strip of your debit or credit cards. It is nearly impossible for a consumer to know whether or not this is the case. Diligently monitor your account statements. If your bank or credit statements do not arrive on time, contact the statement issuer to ensure that your statements have not been rerouted to an alternate address as determined by the identity thief.
- Phishing scams involve the mimicking of legitimate business websites to convince consumers to release their personal information. The phishers inform you that you need to update or validate your account information, or they may claim that there is a problem with your account that you must resolve. Do not divulge any of your personal information, and do not click on any links included in the body of any message asking for your personal information.
The dead are not immune to identity theft. In addition to providing the name and age of the deceased, most obituaries also provide the deceased’s date of birth, places of birth and death, parents’ names, including the mother’s maiden name, names of children, including the married names of daughters. Closing our dearly departed relative’s financial accounts is not usually very high on our list of things to do, so the identity thief has time to do a tremendous amount of damage, both to the account of the dead and to the relatives of the dead. You should consider limiting the amount of information posted in obituaries.
- Effective July 1, 2005, Act Number 766 becomes law in the state of Louisiana. Act 766 provides for a security freeze, which is a notice placed on a consumer file at the request of the consumer that prohibits a credit reporting agency from releasing the consumer’s credit report or credit score without the express authorization of the consumer.
If you are victimized:
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and review your reports carefully.
- Call Equifax at 1-800-525-6285 and write PO Box 740241, Atlanta, GA. 30374-0241
- Call Experian at 1-888-397-9742 and write PO Box 9532, Allen, TX. 75013
- Call TransUnion at 1-800-680-7289 and write Fraud Victim Assistance Division, PO Box 6790, Fullerton, CA. 92834-6790
- Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Ask the company to send you their fraud dispute form.
- You must notify the bank in a timely manner that your checks were lost or stolen. To do so, contact your bank, and call these major check verification companies:
- TeleCheck 1-800-710-9898
- Certegy, Inc. 1-800-437-5120
- International Check Services 1-800-631-9656
- You may also call SCAN at 1-800-262-7771 to learn if the identity thief has been passing bad checks in your name.
- File a report with your local law enforcement agency.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission: www.consumer.gov/idtheft or call 1-877-IDTHEFT
Tips on Organizing Your Case:
- Collect pertinent documentation, including debt collection letters, credit reports, notarized ID Theft affidavit, and any other evidence of fraudulent activity.
- Follow up in writing with all contacts you’ve made on the phone or in person. Use certified mail, return receipt requested.
- Keep copies of all correspondence or forms you send.
- Write down the names of anyone you speak with, what you were told, and the date the conversation occurred.
- Keep the originals of supporting documentation, like police reports, letters to and from creditors; send copies only.
- Set up a filing system for easy access to your paperwork.
- Keep old files even if you believe your case is closed.