|Protect yourselves from predators|
They’re everywhere. People who want to steal your identity and use it for illegal purposes.
A seminar was held Tuesday in Imperial for those interested in protecting themselves from identity theft. It was sponsored by Mid-Plains Community College and hosted by the U.S. Secret Service.
Resident Agent in Charge John Gutsmiedl of Omaha told those present that identity theft is the “misuse or theft of personal or financial identities, in order to gain something of value and/or facilitate other criminal activities.”
People only need a name, date of birth and social security number to steal an identity. Drivers’ licenses, tax identification numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers and PIN numbers are also used to take your information.
Gutsmiedl said credit card numbers are the most compromised items. Social security numbers are the number one thing thieves want, he added.
“Don’t ever give out personal information over the phone, in the mail or on the Internet,” he emphasized, “unless you initiate contact or are sure you know who you’re dealing with.”
If you don’t have to carry more than one credit card, don’t. Put the others in a safe place, he said.
The usual types of identity theft occur as follows:
Credit cards—if you lose them, or false applications, or by “skimmer,” when a machine is used to scan your credit card information with a hand-held instrument at a restaurant, etc. when you’ve handed the card over;
Loan fraud—home or refinance loans;
Bank fraud—counterfeit checks or “bust outs,” which are a credit card scheme;
Identification to law enforcement—when someone gives false identification during a criminal arrest or activities.
Gutsmiedl said protection occurs when a person shreds everything, including unused bank deposit slips, credit card offers, etc.
He said people should deposit checks for bills at a post office rather than putting them in a mail box.
Don’t carry your social security card with you. Memorize the number and put the card in a safe deposit box.
Carry only the credit cards you need for the day, and only the identification you need. Example: Carry Medicare and social security cards when you’re going to the doctor’s office, but not other days.
When ordering new checks, pick them up at the bank, and don’t have them mailed to you.
Gutsmiedl said computer safety is also important. Use virus protection, don’t open files sent by strangers, use a firewall and secure browser, don’t store financial information on a laptop, and before disposing of computers, delete all information.
If you are a victim of identity theft, you should put a fraud alert on your credit reports, close accounts, file a report with the police and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, Gutsmiedl said.