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Friday, Oct 11 2013 05:26 PM

ACTION LINE: Take these steps to avoid identity theft

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    By Contributed photo

    Blair Looney, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Central California.

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BY BLAIR LOONEY Contributing columnist

Dear Action Line,  I just received a post card from the Post Office. It said that it wanted to confirm that I was moving and had filed a change of address. I am not moving and I have not filed a change of address. How does this happen?

Dear Reader,  It appears that someone has attempted to steal your identity. They try to divert your billing statements to another address by completing a change of address form. Some of the most common ways ID theft happens are dumpster diving, skimming, phishing, old-fashioned stealing or, in your case, filing a false change of address with the U.S. Postal Service.

They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your information on it. They steal credit/debit numbers by using special storage devices when you swipe your card for payment. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop up messages to get you to reveal your personal information. They steal wallets and purses, mail, including bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, and new checks or tax information.

First of all, notify the Postal Service that you did not file a change of address. You must act quickly. Here is a list of things that the FTC advises you to do to avoid ID theft:

* Inspect your credit report. Credit reports contain information about you, including what accounts you have and your bill paying history.

Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 877-322-8228. This is a service created by Equifax, Experian and Trans Union (major credit reporting companies) to order your free credit report each year. Or you can write to Annual Credit Report Request, P O Box 105281, Atlanta, Ga., 30348-5281.

* Inspect your financial statements. Review financial accounts and billing statements regularly, looking for charges you did not make.

If your identity has become compromised, you need to:

* Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently. Call the security or fraud department of each company where an account was opened or changed without your OK. Follow up in writing.

* Use the ID Theft Affidavit at ftc.gov/idtheft to support your written statement.

* Ask for verification that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged.

* Keep copies of documents and records of your conversations of the theft.

* File a report with law enforcement officials to help you with creditors who may want proof of the crime.

* Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigations.

Online: ftc.gov/idtheft

By phone: 877-438-4338 or TTY 866-653-4261

By mail: Identity Theft Clearninghouse, FTC, Washington, D.C., 20580.

Blair Looney is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 1601 H. St., Suite 101, Bakersfield, CA 93301 or info@cencal.bbb.org.

 

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