ID Theft


Identity theft is a serious crime.  People whose identities have been stolen spend a lot of time and money cleaning up the mess made of their good name and credit record.

It is important to recognize that there is no way to entirely protect yourself from identity theft, but you can make it harder for someone to steal your identity.

Here are some Do's and Don'ts to help you protect your identity:

  • DON'T carry a Social Security card in your wallet or purse
  • DON'T give out your Social Security number unless absolutely necessary, when you are asked for your Social Security number, find out why it is needed, how it is going to be used, how it is protected and what will happen if you do not provide it
  • DON'T carry one single credit or debit card more than you really need
  • DO cancel any credit cards in writing you are not using with the issuing financial institution - then cut the card(s) into small strips before disposing
  • DON'T write your PIN number on the back of your card or on a little slip of paper you carry in your wallet or purse
  • DO check your credit card bills and share draft statements carefully every month for activity you do not recognize
  • DO make copies of the front and back of all your credit and debit cards and store the copies in a secure place.  If your cards are lost or stolen, you'll have all the relevant information you need to contact the card issuers.
  • DON'T just throw away those "pre-approved" credit card applications you receive in the mail.  A thief can use the application to apply for credit in your name
  • DO consider purchasing an inexpensive home paper shredder and shred anything that contains personal information before throwing it away
  • DON'T leave outgoing mail in your personal mailbox, drop it off at the post office or a local drop box
  • DON'T give out personal information in person, over the phone, by mail or on the internet unless you made the initial contact or you are absolutely certain you know who you are giving information to
  • DO secure important documents in a locked box, drawer or safe at home



  • You receive bills from a credit account you did not open
  • You see unauthorized charges on your credit, long distance, or bank accounts
  • You are contacted by a collection agency regarding a debt you did  not incur
  • Checks disappear from your checkbook
  • Credit Union and credit billing statements do not arrive on time
  • Your credit report shows accounts you did not authorize
  • You are turned down for a credit card, loan, mortgage or other form of credit due to unauthorized debts on your credit report



  • Use unique passwords whenever you can
  • Change passwords regularly
  • Don't set your system to "remember my password" - this feature allows entry to anyone who sits down at your computer.  Disable these memorized passwords wherever possible
  • Remember passwords, don't write them down
  • Beware of "phishing" - people impersonating legitimate companies with an e-mail that asks you to update your personal information.  Never give personal information in an e-mail and remember, C-B-W does not send e-mails requesting personal information.
  • Don't give personal information over the internet unless the site is secure.  On a secure server, your information is encrypted as it is being transmitted, that way others can not read it should it be intercepted.
  • Never click on the link provided in an e-mail you believe is fraudulent.  It may contain a virus that can contaminate your computer.
  • Do not be intimidated by an e-mail or caller who suggests dire consequences if you do not immediately provide or verify financial information.
  • If you believe the contact is legitimate, go to the company's Web site by typing in the site address directly or using a page you have previously book marked, instead of a link provided in the e-mail.


  • Contact your financial institution immediately and alert it to the situation
  • If you have disclosed sensitive information in a phishing attack, you should also contact one of the three major credit bureaus and discuss whether you need to place a fraud alert on your file, which will help prevent thieves from opening a new account in your name. 
  • The contact information for each bureau's fraud division is:

                                Equifax - 800-525-6285, PO Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374

                                Experian - 888-397-3742, PO Box 1017, Allen, TX 75013

                                TransUnion - 800-680-7289, PO Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634

  • Report all suspicious contacts to the Federal Trade Commission through the Internet at, or by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT.

You may need to contact other agencies for other types of identity theft:

  • Your local office of the Postal Inspection Service if you suspect that an identity thief has submitted a change-of-address form with the Post Office to redirect your mail, or has used the mail to commit frauds involving your identity.
  • The Social Security Administration if you suspect that your Social Security number is being fraudulently used - call 800-269-0271 to report the fraud.
  • The Internal Revenue Service if you suspect the improper use of identification information in connection with tax violations - call 800-829-0433 to report violations.

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