What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone illicitly obtains personal information about someone else for the purposes of impersonating them. The thief then uses personally identifying information, like name, Social Security number, birthdate, or credit card number without permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.

The following information is a guide and not legal advice.

How can I protect myself from Identity Theft?

  1. Defend Your Data!  Don’t carelessly give out personal information, including Social Security numbers, bank account or credit card numbers or PINs, usernames, passwords or other items that should remain confidential. If someone contacts you asking for such information, be very careful. Legitimate companies will rarely ask for this kind of information when contacting you, either by mail, telephone or email.
  2. Be Skeptical! Don’t Take the Bait! ”Phishing” is a very common e-mail attempt to steal your personal information. Phishing uses social engineering to trick victims into following a link to a forged website to enter account information.  Phishing e-mails use official looking logos and deceptive language and appear to come from legitimate sources, such as banks and online merchants like Amazon and Ebay. Merchants and banks will not contact you in this manner. If you’re uncertain about the email, be skeptical and don’t click the link.
  3. Shred Unwanted Documents! Shred and discard paper bank statements, credit card bills, etc., that contain personal information. Remove the labels from prescription drug bottles before discarding them. The US Supreme Court ruled that discarded trash has no expectation of privacy. “Dumpster-diving” is a common way for identity thieves to get information in the form of discarded “Pre-Approved” credit card applications, bank statements, credit card receipts or other sensitive documents.
  4. Check Your Accounts Regularly!  Access your bank and credit card accounts regularly and look for unexpected charges or changes. Don’t ignore little charges or deposits $1.00 or less. Thieves do this to see if the account is live and if it is monitored before a big hit.

How do I know if my identity has been stolen and misused?

Checking your credit report for unexpected changes is probably the most reliable way to detect Identity Theft. If accounts that you are unaware of show up in the credit report, be sure to check them out as possible fraudulent accounts created with your stolen information.

How do I get a free copy of my credit report and how often can I do it?

You can get a free copy of a credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies once per year. You can get all three reports at the same time, or request one from one agency, then request one from another agency at a different time. There are three ways to request a report:
Web – https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp
Telephone – 1-877-322-8228
Mail – Print and fill out the request form at from the website: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

I’m a victim of Identity Theft, what do I do now?

The West Virginia State Attorney General suggests the following actions:

  1. Notify the security departments of any involved creditors or financial institutions, and close any accounts that were opened fraudulently.
  2. Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit reporting agencies and request that one of them place a “Fraud Alert” in your credit file. Once one receives a Fraud Alert request, it will forward the request to the other two agencies.
  3. File a police report with local police or with police in the community where the fraud took place.
  4. Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission by filing a complaint at http://www.ftc.gov/complaint

How do I contact the credit reporting agencies to report fraud?

Equifax: http://www.equifax.com
Phone: 1-800-525-6285 (to report fraud only)
Mail: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA  30374-0241

Experian: http://www.experian.com
Phone: 1-888-EXPERIAN (1-888-397-3742)
Mail: P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX  75013

TransUnion: http://www.transunion.com
Phone: 1-800-680-7289
Mail:    Fraud Victim Assistance Division P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA  92834-6790

What is a Fraud Alert and how long does it last?

A Fraud Alert is a flag that the credit reporting agencies put in your file to instruct creditors to take extra precautions when opening accounts or issuing credit, such as additional verification of your identity. This can potentially slow down the credit application process somewhat, but can protect your credit.    There are two types of Fraud Alerts:

  1. An initial alert lasts for 90 days
  2. An extended alert lasts for seven years. In addition, you are automatically removed from marketing lists for “pre-screened” or “pre-approved” credit accounts.

What is WVU doing to protect private student data?

WVU takes the privacy of its students, faculty and staff very seriously. WVU-ID 700 numbers have replaced Social Security Numbers as the primary student ID number. WVU is continually taking steps to reduce the number of areas where confidential information is stored and used.

Where can I find out more about Identity Theft?

Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft page -  https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/media-resources/identity-theft-and-data-security
US Dept. of Education ID misuse page – http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/misused/index.html?src=rt
Identity Theft Resource Center – http://www.idtheftcenter.org