Today ELLA hosted a workshop organized by Kevin Henry of the City of Bellevue. We heard from three guest speakers: Detective Richard Chinn from the Bellevue Police Department, Attorney Judith Shoshana of Eastside Legal Assistance Program, and Special Agent Robert Kierstead of the U.S. Secret Service Department.
In case you were unable to attend, I've summarized their tips in the post below. And special thanks again to Kevin Henry for organizing this event for us!
20 Tips on How to Protect Yourself from Fraud, Scams, and Identity Theft
1) Use a Locking Mailbox.
2) Never leave outgoing mail in an unsecured area or container
3) Know the dates when you usually receive bills so that you can determine if your mail has been stolen.
4) Shred all documents that have any personal information about you. (preferably into tiny pieces instead of strips)
5) Never give out personal information (maiden names, Social Security number (SSN), account numbers) to anyone who contacts you by phone or internet. If a caller says they need the information, contact the company directly, using a phone number that you know is good and make sure they are really who they say they are.
6) When you receive a sales call, say no thank-you and hang up as quickly as possible.
7) Do not give to charities by phone.
8) Use a black gel-ink pen (NOT a ballpoint pen) when you write checks. These pens are more permanent and cannot be “washed” off with check-washing chemicals.
9) Do not give checks to unknown people.
10) Carry only a few credit cards with you.
11) Do not keep your PIN code or passwords in your wallet. Never tell anyone your PIN.
12) Do not carry your Social Security card with you. Keep it in a secure place at home. Also keep passports, birth certificates, and other important documents in a secure, preferably locked, place at home.
13) If someone asks you for your Social Security Number (SSN) or any part of your SSN, ask:
Why do you need my SSN?
How will my SSN be used?
What law requires me to give you my SSN?
What will happen if I do not give you my SSN?
(Then decide if you want to give them your number. In some cases, it is necessary, but in many cases it is not necessary.)
14) Do not leave credit cards, checks, or other identifying information in a gym locker. Keep these with you at all times. Gym lockers are a common place for theft to occur.
15) Beware of internet scams and never send money directly. Make sure you are on the actual website before you trust a site. Do not send money to people in other countries asking for help.
16) Make sure you have updated your virus, firewall, and/or spyware protection on your computer.
17) When you dispose of your old computer, wipe the hard drive or destroy it so that no one can get your information off of it.
18) Be careful when you use WI-FI in unsecured hotspots. Do not enter personal information in an unsecured hotspot.
19) Be cautious when following any link to another site that requires a log-in. It’s better to manually type in the http address.
20) Review your bank and credit card statements frequently and check your credit history at least 2 times a year to make sure there is no fraudulent activity:
**You can get a free credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228
You can stop pre-approved credit offers from coming in the mail by removing your name from the 3 credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) by going to www.optoutprescreen.com or by calling them at 1-888-567-8688.
You can stop phone solicitors from calling you by signing up for the national “Do Not Call” registry at www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222.
Other good resources:
www.consumer.gov (click on Scams and Identity Theft)
Detective Richard Chinn at Bellevue Police Department:
If you are a victim of fraud:
1) Contact the police and file a police report (call 9-1-1 and report a non-emergency)
2) Contact the fraud department of each of the 3 major credit bureaus:
1) Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
2) Experian: 1-888- 397-3742
3) TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800
3) Contact the creditors for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened