Install a locked mailbox at your residence to reduce mail
theft, or use a post office box.
you order new checks, consider removing "extra"
information such as your Social Security number, assigned
driver's license number, middle name, and telephone number.
The less personal identifying information you make available,
the more likely an identity thief will choose an easier target.
Do not have new checks sent to your homes mailbox. Pick them
up at the bank instead.
you pay bills, do not leave the envelopes containing your
checks at your homes mailbox for the postal carrier to pick
up. If stolen, your checks can be altered and then cashed.
If stolen, credit card payments contain all the necessary
information an identity thief needs. Never write your credit
card account number or Social Security number on your checks
when making a payment. Due to an increased risk of theft and
vandalism, it is best to mail bills and other sensitive items
at the post office, rather than from your residence or neighborhood
the number of credit cards you actively use to a bare minimum.
Carry only one or two of them in your wallet. Cancel all unused
accounts. Even though you do not use them, their account numbers
are recorded in your credit report, which is full of data
that can be used by identity thieves.
a list or photocopy of all your credit cards, account numbers,
expiration dates, and telephone numbers of the customer service
and fraud departments in a secure place (not your wallet or
purse) so you can quickly contact your creditors in case your
cards have been lost or stolen. Do the same with your bank
give out your credit card number or other personal information
over the telephone unless you have a trusted business relationship
with the company AND YOU HAVE INITIATED THE CALL. Identity
thieves have been known to call their victims with a fake
story that goes something like this: Today is your lucky day!
You have been chosen by the Publishers Consolidated Sweepstakes
to receive a free trip to the Bahamas. All we need is your
credit card number and expiration date to verify you as the
take credit card and ATM receipts with you. Never toss them
in a public trash container.
in writing, that the issuer for each of your credit cards,
remove your name from their marketing and promotional lists
which they may sell or share with other companies. In addition,
if any of your credit card issuers send random issue convenience
checks, request (in writing) to be removed from the mailing
list. Credit card convenience checks are easy prey for identity
thieves to steal and use while often times, the consumer is
unaware that the checks were even issued. Your credit card
billing statement should contain a different address for "correspondence"
to the issuer. Do not send your requests to the same address
where you send your credit card payments.
the mail when you are expecting a new credit card that you
have applied for or a reissued credit card that has expired.
Immediately contact the issuer if the credit card does not
of the benefits for consumers using the Internet, a global
network of interlinked computer networks, is the ability to
purchase products and services around the clock electronically
from the convenience of their home or office. One of the drawbacks
is the potential for fraud and deception. Be very careful
before you use a credit card on the Internet or provide personal
information (such as your Social Security number or date of
birth) on an electronic application.
and Personal Identification Numbers (PINs):
creating passwords and PINs, do not use the last four digits
of your Social Security number, your birthdate, middle name,
mother's maiden name, pet's name, address, consecutive numbers,
or anything else that could be discovered easily by thieves.
your financial institution to add extra security protection
to your account. Most will allow you to use an additional
code (a number or word) when accessing your account. Do not
use the common passwords and PINs listed above.
all your passwords. Don't record them on anything in your
wallet or purse.
your hand when using your PIN at a bank ATM or when making
long distance phone calls with your phone card. "Shoulder
surfers" may be spying nearby with binoculars or a video
your Social Security number. Release it only when absolutely
necessary or when required by law (such as tax forms, employment
records, banking/stock/property transactions, driver's/marriage/professional
license applications, etc.). If a government agency requests
important personal information, including your Social Security
number, a Privacy Act notice should accompany the request.
(5 United States Code section 552a(e)(3)) This notice will
explain whether disclosure of such information is required
or requested, the use that will be made of the information,
and what will happen if you refuse to provide all or any part
of the information. Your Social Security number is the key
to your banking and credit card accounts, insurance and health
benefits, making it a prime target of identity thieves. You
may wish to utilize an "assigned" driver's license
number rather than your Social Security number whenever possible.
Assigned numbers are only available to holders of a non-commercial
not have your Social Security number printed on your checks.
Don't let merchants hand-write your Social Security number
on your checks because of the risk of fraud. Currently, there
is no law against a merchant requiring you to divulge your
Social Security number before accepting a check, so you may
need to be assertive. Offering an assigned driver's license
number is usually an adequate substitute.
a copy of your Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement
(PEBES) from the Social Security Administration every three
years to check for inaccuracies or fraud. To request a PEBES
application call or write to:
Office of the Inspector General
210 Walnut Street
100 Euclid Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50306
website to download a PEBES application:
review your credit card statements and phone bills, including
cellular phone bills, for unauthorized charges or fraudulent
use. Be aware that under current laws, your local telephone
company is obliged to let other carriers use their billing
systems for a fee. More and more unscrupulous third parties
are billing consumers for goods such as; special services,
calling plans, or memberships that they did not order and
do not want (commonly called "cramming"). Scrutinize
your local, long distance and cellular telephone bills each
month for fraudulent or unauthorized charges. Be aware that
some long distance telephone companies resort to deceptive
tactics to switch your service without authorization (commonly
called "slamming"). You may contact your local telephone
company to verify your long distance carrier and request a
"freeze" on your account so it cannot be changed
without your specific authorization using a password.
not toss credit card convenience checks or pre-approved credit
offers in your trash or recycling bin without first tearing
them into small pieces or shredding them. They can be used
by "dumpster divers" to cash the checks or order
credit cards in your name and mail them to their address.
Do the same with other sensitive information like credit card
receipts, banking statements, phone bills, and so on. Home
shredders can be purchased in most office supply stores.
that your financial institution adequately safeguard your
personal identifying information. Discourage your bank from
using the last four digits of the Social Security number as
your assigned personal identification number (PIN). Request
that your bank remove account numbers from ATM receipts (many
have already done so). Inquire whether they shred all paper
records before discarding them. Always take your receipts
from ATMs with you and shred or store them in a safe place.
By adopting responsible information handling practices, you
and your financial institution can reduce the risk of fraud.
you fill out credit or loan applications, find out how the
company disposes of them. If you are not convinced that they
store them in locked files and/or shred them, take your business
elsewhere. Some auto dealerships, department stores, car rental
agencies, and video stores have been known to be careless
with customer applications or an employee at the business
with "insider access" may retrieve your personal
information to sell or use fraudulently. When you pay by credit
card, ask the business how it stores and disposes of the transaction
slip. Avoid paying by credit card if you think the business
does not use adequate safeguards.
your canceled checks in a safe place. In the wrong hands,
they could reveal a lot of information about you, including
your account number, telephone number and driver's license
number. Never permit your credit card number to be written
onto your checks. Iowa law prohibits a merchant from recording
your credit card number or expiration date as a condition
of acceptance of a check for the sale of goods or services.
Iowa law does NOT prohibit a merchant from requesting that
you display a credit card, and it allows the merchant to record
only the name and issuer (bank name) of the credit card. However,
a credit card number may be requested and recorded in lieu
of a deposit to secure payment in the event of loss, damage,
or default. (Iowa Code section 537.8101)
in public places, always be aware of your surroundings. Thieves
commonly use a distraction in cramped public places, such
as elevators, escalators and revolving doors to "bump
and lift" your money, identification, and credit cards.
Be especially cautious with bags and purses that can be an
easy target for a thief to "grab and run."
credit card companies, clubs and organizations, charities,
manufacturers and retailers make lists of their subscribers,
customers, members and donors available to other businesses
for a fee. Your information is reproduced and sold in countless
ways. You should always exercise caution when you are making
personal identifying information available by utilizing the
Internet, sending a mail-in rebate/survey/warranty card, entering
a drawing or sweepstakes, donating money, and even subscribing
to magazine services.
have any further questions or concerns, or if you would like
additional information, please contact:
General Tom Miller
Consumer Protection Division
1300 East Walnut
Hoover State Office Building
Des Moines, IA 50319
originates from the:
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, 5384 Linda Vista Road, Suite
306, San Diego, CA 92110; phone: 619-298-3396; e-mail: www.privacyrights.org.
With their consent, it has been adapted for Iowa consumers,
edited and distributed by the Consumer Protection Division
of the Office of Attorney General Tom Miller, Iowa Department
of Justice. March 1998