Plymouth Chief of Police Michael E. Botieri raises red flag regarding identity theft. Chief urges care with personal information.
(Plymouth, MA) – Recent news events have brought to light how easy it is for unscrupulous hackers to steal our identities and ruin our financial lives. Just last month, federal authorities said they cracked a ring responsible for the largest case of identity theft in U.S. history.
“With a few keystrokes, 30,000 people’s identities, bank accounts and credit profiles were savaged,” said Chief Michael E. Botieri. A software company employee is charged with stealing access codes and passwords for 30,000 people whose bank accounts were drained, while credit card accounts were opened in their names and used to buy merchandise and establish lines of credit.
Law enforcement officials say the losses so far total $2.7 million, and they expect that figure to grow. “These people are left on their own to straighten out their affairs and restore their financial standing in the community,” says Chief Botieri. “It can take years.”
Chief Botieri urged all consumers to protect themselves against identity theft.
Privacy in an Electronic Age
But realistically, what can the average consumer do? “The truth is, you can’t prevent identity theft from occurring,” says Chief Botieri. “But here’s what you can do to minimize your chance of becoming a victim.”
He cites the guidelines set out by the Federal Trade Commission and the Identity Theft Resource Center:
1. Check your credit reports once a year from all three of the credit reporting agencies: TransUnion ( www.transunion.com), Experian ( www.experian.com) and Equifax ( www.equifax.com).
2. Don’t put your Social Security number or your driver’s license number on your checks.
3. Watch for people who seem to be eavesdropping on information you give out orally.
4. Place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts.
5. Secure personal information in your house, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help or are having service work done at home.
6. Deposit outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office, rather than in an unsecured mailbox.
Try not to store financial information on your laptop computer. If you do, use a strong password — a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use the automatic log-in feature that saves your user name and password so you don’t have to enter them each time you log in or visit a Web-site. That way, if your laptop is stolen, it’s harder for the thief to access your personal information.
Care with Personal Information
“When it comes to preventing identity theft,” concludes Chief Botieri, “the only way to maintain power over your financial information is by limiting other people’s knowledge of and access to it.”
What To Do Immediately When Your Personal Information Has Been Stolen:
• Notify the Credit Bureau right away : Equifax, Transunion, Experian
• Alert the Credit Bureau that your personal information has been stolen
• Contact your bank and cancel not only checkbook, but your bank account