Credit and identity fraud have unfortunately become common occurrences in today's society. Since 1999, the primary category of complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is identity fraud.
Here are some easy precautions you can take to protect your personal information:
- Be cautious when providing personal information such as your Social Security number and account or credit card information over the telephone, in-person or on the Internet.
- Protect your Social Security number and the Social Security numbers of your children or other family members by not carrying them in your wallet.
- Do not carry your Social Security card, passport or birth certificate unless needed that day.
- Report lost or stolen checks, credit or debit cards immediately. Bellco will block payment on the check numbers or account numbers involved.
- Store cancelled checks, new checks and account statements in a safe place.
- Notify Bellco of suspicious phone inquiries such as those asking for account information to "verify a statement" or "award a prize."
- Review your credit report at least once every year. Make sure all information is up to date and accurate.
- Tear up or shred any pre-approved credit offers to which you do not respond. Thieves can use these offers to assume your identity.
- Keep mail secure. Don't mail bills or sensitive information from your home or unsecured mailboxes.
- Retrieve and review your mail promptly. Thieves may use the personal information contained in your mail to steal your identity.
- If you do not receive your regular bills when expected, call the company to find out why.
- Review your monthly account statements thoroughly. Investigate suspicious items immediately to head off any possible fraud before it occurs.
Become familiar with how to protect yourself online.
Suggestions for Victims of Credit Fraud
If you believe you are a victim of credit fraud, here are some of the steps you can take to protect yourself:
Add a fraud alert to your credit report. A 90-day security alert gives you time to verify if you are a victim of fraud. If you determine you are a fraud victim, you may add a seven-year victim statement to your credit report. Here are links to more information at the three major credit bureaus:
- Inform creditors. If you find an account you did not open, contact the creditor and inform them that the account is fraudulent.
- Document everything. Make notes of everyone you speak with and the date of the conversation. Write down names, department names, phone extensions and any follow-up items.
- Understand the process. Each creditor may have a different process for handling a fraud claim. Make sure you understand exactly what is expected from you to successfully complete the investigation. At the conclusion of an investigation, ask the creditor for documentation stating you are not responsible for the debt.
- Follow up. Make sure everything a creditor/credit reporting agency has requested is received. It is always a good idea to place a follow-up call or send letters with delivery confirmation.
- Review future reports regularly. Obtain another report several months after you believe everything is cleared up. If a new fraudulent account is discovered, you know how to handle it. If your credit report is back to normal, you can feel confident that all issues were resolved as you expected. It would be a good idea to check your credit report again in six months and a year later.
- Don't throw away files. Keep all notes and correspondence in an accessible file in case they are needed in the future.
How Bellco works to prevent fraud
Bellco strives to protect your credit information with the following practices:
- We drop several digits from each of your credit account numbers on your personal credit report.
- On your personal credit report, we do not display the Social Security number that you provided to us when you requested your report.
- We continually monitor access to our database with sophisticated software so if unusual activity is identified, our security and fraud control department can immediately investigate the issue.
- Learn more about how you can protect your home computers
- We maintain extensive firewalls to prevent computer hackers from accessing consumer credit data.
With the widespread nature of this problem, identity protection products are available to cover yourself just like you protect your home, car and other valuable assets against loss. Bellco has partnered with Identity Fraud, Inc to offer special Bellco rates on different protection plans.