Financial crimes continue to rise on a national scale. The same is true on a local level. The question is, “Is my personal information available on the internet, and how and why did it get there?” Chances are good that some of your personal information is available on the internet. Some companies make their profits from gathering information electronically and making it available to their clients. This information is used by marketing companies, attorneys, and even law enforcement; it is up to the information brokers to screen their clientele so that they do not make their service available to would-be information thieves. Sometimes, however, there is a breakdown in security measures, and the results are devastating.
The Good News
Fortunately, several states require that companies inform people when their personal information has been compromised. The advantage to the victim in this situation is that the earlier it is detected, the less damage is likely to be done.
Sadly, there is not much that can be done to prevent at least some personal information from being posted online. However, there are steps that can be taken to minimize the potential damage should personal information be compromised. The most important recommendations are:
- Shred anything and everything that contains personal information.
- Obtain a copy of your credit report at least twice a year. This will help to give you an early alert that your credit has been compromised by fraudulent activities.
- Notify the Police Department as soon as you discover you have become a victim.
Guard Your Personal Information
Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or on the internet unless you’ve initiated the contact or are sure you know who you’re dealing with. Before you share any personal information, confirm that you are dealing with a legitimate organization.
Treat Your Mail Carefully
Deposit your outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office, rather than in an unsecured mailbox. When ordering checks, pick them up from the bank instead of having them mailed to your home mailbox.
Treat Your Trash Carefully
Shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks and bank statements, expired charge cards that you’re discarding, and credit offers you get in the mail.
Guard Your Social Security Number
Don’t carry your social security card; leave it in a secure place. Give your social security number only when absolutely necessary.
Keep Track of Your Personal Belongings
Keep your purse or wallet in a safe place at work; do the same with copies of administrative forms that have your sensitive personal information.
What To Do if You Have Been a Victim of Identity Theft
Four things to do as soon as possible when you discover you have been a victim of identity theft:
- Review your credit reports and place a fraud alert on them (see below).
- Close the accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- File a report with your local police department or the police in the community where the identity theft took place.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 877-ID-THEFT (438-4338)
Consumer Reporting Companies
Ph: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
Additional Online Resources
For more information on identity theft and financial crimes, view some of these helpful resources.
- Federal Trade Commission national resource on identity theft
- U.S. Department of Justice website on identity theft and fraud
- Federal Trade Commission website on identity theft
- Social Security Administration information on identity theft
- Illinois Attorney General – identity theft and fraud alerts
- U.S. Department of the Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
- Identity Theft Resource Center
- U.S. Postal Inspection Service
- International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators
Kane County Bad Check Restitution Program
The Kane County State’s Attorney has implemented a Bad Check Restitution Program to assist local merchants and citizens with bad check losses under $5,000. This program is designed to obtain full restitution for the victims without adding to the financial burden of the criminal justice system.
Ineligible Check Information
Checks ineligible for the Kane County State’s Attorney Bad Check Restitution Program may be pursued via small claims court or by a private collection agency.