Are You At Risk For


It takes surprisingly little to become a victim of identity theft. A social security number or other personal identification ending up in the wrong person’s hands can make one’s life a lot more than just unpleasant. Here are some precautionary suggestions for St. John Parish residents.

According to Trans Union, a national credit bureau, identity thieves collect billions of dollars a year by illegally assuming their victim’s identity. The crime is estimated to defraud more than 300,000 people a year. But, it is the manner in which thieves go about obtaining personal identification information that is most alarming. ID-theft rings often obtain social security numbers by illegally paying low-level employees of the Internal Revenue Service of the Social Security Administration to secretly provide them. Another common tactic involves targeting mail boxes. Chances are that several pieces of mail received on a monthly basis contain a social ""security number as well as a current address, which makes it that much easier to open an account in another person’s name.

"One of the most significant problems resulting from identity theft is not only the dollar loss, " says  the St. John Parish Sheriff. "Once someone’s identity has been stolen and credit has been damaged, their credit rating is tarnished. This may cause constant credit rejection. Unfortunately it becomes the individual’s responsibility to untangle the problem with creditors."


""   Report the crime to the police immediately. This will provide credit card
       companies and banks with an 
official report.

""  Close all credit accounts.

""  Obtain new passwords and account numbers through your bank.

""  For all fraudulent accounts opened in your name, fill out fraud affidavits.
      Also, require your approval prior to granting any new or additional credit.

""  Keep a journal of activities and conversations.


""  Contact gas, water, electric, cable and telephone companies and ask them
       to be alert to anyone 
requesting an account in your name.

""   Be on the alert for missing mail.

""  DO NOT place outgoing mail in your mailbox. All mail should be mailed
      through a United States 
Post Office box.

""  NEVER include your social security number on personal checks.

""  DO NOT allow sales clerks to copy credit card numbers on back of personal
      checks for additional 

""  When choosing pin numbers for ATM and credit cards, DO NOT use any
      portion of your social security 

""  CALL the credit card company if your card has expired and you have not
       received a new one.

""  SHRED all mail before discarding anything obtaining account numbers.

""  CARRY only a few credit cards in your wallet and CANCEL all cards that you
      do not use.   
Cutting up credit cards does not cancel them. If a thief gets a
      copy of your credit report,  these unused 
accounts can easily be reactivated
      and a new card can be sent out through the mail.

""  Once a year, REQUEST a copy of your credit report. If you notice any accounts
      you did not apply for,  
make inquires.


Related Links for more information

SOURCES: 1.) Raymond, Ilene. "Outsmarting the Identity Thieves."
Reader’s Digest, July 1997, pp. 117-126
2.) Walsh, Malachy. "Are You a Target for Identity Theft?"
Consumer Reports, Sept. 1997, pp. 10-16.