How To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft



Rotterdam Police Department Crime Prevention Information

Identity Theft can happen to anyone. The crime of Identity Theft is on the rise. Recent surveys show there are currently 7-10 million victims per year, greatly exceeding earlier estimates. The emotional impact of Identity Theft is similar to that suffered by victims of violent crimes. Most Identity Theft is committed through traditional means such as lost or stolen wallets or purses, mail theft, or misappropriation of personal identifiers by family or friends.

(Information from the US Department Of Justice)

Several Ways Identity Theft Happens

A person is tricked into giving out his/ her information to phone caller or mail request.

Never give out personal information on a call you did not originate.

Lost or Stolen wallets and pocketbooks

Stolen Mail

Stolen Trash, known as “Dumpster Diving”

Burglary of residence or business

Credit Card “Skimming”

Unscrupulous Employees

Internet Crimes


“Phishing" is an e-mail message from that appears to be sent by a legitimate institution which attempts to trick consumers into revealing personal information—such as their credit or debit account numbers, checking account information, Social Security numbers, or banking account passwords—through fake Websites or in a reply e-mail.

Fake Websites or "Spoofing"

The practice known as "spoofing" or creating a fake website, is when a person mimics the web site of established companies to trick unsuspecting prospective customers into believing they are on an established legitimate company's actual website when infact they are not. This causes the person to trust the fake website and they in turn reveal their credit card information.

Unsecured Wireless Networks

It is becoming more common for people to install wireless routers on their home networks. Many of these people fail to utilize the security features (known as WEP or the newer WPA/WPA2 technology) on their wireless routers. Many people also fail to use a firewall.  Criminals can gain access to a victims unsecured internet connection and use it to commit crimes and frauds. They can also use this connection to gain a person's passwords or emails if either are not encrypted.

Using An Unsecured Laptop On Public “Hotspots”

Criminals can gain access to your laptop while you use a public “hotspot” such as the free connections offered at cafes and bookstores and obtain any personal or important information. Public "Hotspots" usually do not use any security features to make it easier for their customers to gain a wireless connection. While this makes it easier for you to connect with your laptop, it also makes it easier for a criminal to access the very same network to gain access to your computer. If you are going to use a public "hotspot" ensure you have secured and encrypted any personal information. Try not to use any site that requires a password or any other personal information to be sent such as your bank or credit union websites or AOL while logged into a public hotspot. If you your computer is unprotected, any passwords and personal information you send can be "sniffed out" by a criminal and read as plain text.

What Crimes Can Be Committed With A Stolen Identity?

Open cell phone and wireless service.
Open new credit card accounts.
Take over your existing credit card accounts.
Open bank accounts.
Counterfeit your checks and credit/debit cards.
Buy cars and houses.
Commit crimes in your name.

What Should I Do To Avoid Becoming A Victim Of Identity Theft?

Start by adopting a "need to know" approach to your personal data. Your credit card company may need to know your mother's maiden name, so that it can verify your identity when you call to inquire about your account. A person who calls you and says he's from your bank, however, doesn't need to know that information if it's already on file with your bank; the only purpose of such a call is to acquire that information for that person's personal benefit. Also, the more information that you have printed on your personal bank checks -- such as your Social Security number or home telephone number -- the more personal data you are routinely handing out to people who may not need that information.

If someone you don't know calls you on the telephone and offers you the chance to receive a "major" credit card, a prize, or other valuable item, but asks you for personal data -- such as your Social Security number, credit card number or expiration date, or mother's maiden name -- ask them to send you a written application form.  If they won't do it, tell them you're not interested and hang up.  If they will, review the application carefully when you receive it and make sure it's going to a company or financial institution that's well-known and reputable.  Any unsolicited emails making similar offers should be treated the same, never providing personal information or clicking on "hyperlinks" within an unsolicited email.

If you're traveling, have your mail held at your local post office, or ask someone you know well and trust ­ another family member, a friend, or a neighbor ­ to collect and hold your mail while you're away.

There are two types of Identity Theft. The first type is called "Account Takeover". "Account Takeover" occurs when a thief acquires your existing credit account information and purchases products and services using either the actual credit card or simply the account number and expiration date. The second type is called "Application Fraud". "Application Fraud" is what some experts refer to as "True Name Fraud." This is when a thief uses your SSN and other identifying information to open new accounts in your name. Victims are not likely to learn of application fraud for some time, because the monthly account statements are mailed to an address used by the imposter. In contrast, victims learn of Account Takeover when they receive their monthly account statement.

There are many methods criminals use to obtain SSNs, driver's licenses, credit card numbers and other pieces of identification. Some of these methods are:

    • "Dumpster diving" in trash bins for unshredded credit card and loan applications and documents containing SSNs. Consider shredding all documents that contain personal ID information.
    • Stealing mail from unlocked mailboxes to obtain newly issued credit cards, bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, investment reports, insurance statements, benefits documents, or tax information. Unfortunately, even locked mailboxes may not stop the most determined thief. However thiefs usually choose the easiest target and may move on elsewhere if they encounter a locked mailbox.
    • Accessing your credit report fraudulently, for example, by posing as an employer, loan officer, or landlord.
    • Obtaining names and SSNs from personnel or customer files in the workplace.
    • "Shoulder surfing" at ATM machines and phone booths in order to capture PIN numbers. Be aware of people around you when you use these.
    • Finding identifying information on Internet sources, via public records sites and fee-based information broker sites.

Check your financial information regularly, and look for what should be there and what shouldn't:

Request your Credit Report for Free here:


What Should Be There.

  1. If you have bank or credit card accounts, you should be receiving monthly statements that list transactions for the most recent month or reporting period.

  2. If you're not receiving monthly statements for the accounts you know you have, call the financial institution or credit card company immediately and ask about it.

  3. If you're told that your statements are being mailed to another address that you haven't authorized, tell the financial institution or credit card representative immediately that you did not authorize the change of address and that someone may be improperly using your accounts. In that situation, you should also ask for copies of all statements and debit or charge transactions that have occurred since the last statement you received. Obtaining those copies will help you to work with the financial institution or credit card company in determining whether some or all of those debit or charge transactions were fraudulent.

What Shouldn't Be There.

  1. If someone has gotten your financial data and made unauthorized debits or charges against your financial accounts, checking your monthly statements carefully may be the quickest way for you to find out. Too many of us give those statements, or the enclosed checks or credit transactions, only a quick glance, and don't review them closely to make sure there are no unauthorized withdrawals or charges.

  2. If someone has managed to get access to your mail or other personal data, and opened any credit cards in your name or taken any funds from your bank account, contact your financial institution or credit card company immediately to report those transactions and to request further action.

Maintain careful records of your banking and financial accounts. Even though financial institutions are required to maintain copies of your checks, debit transactions, and similar transactions for five years, you should retain your monthly statements and checks for at least one year, if not more. If you need to dispute a particular check or transaction ­ especially if they purport to bear your signatures ­ your original records will be more immediately accessible and useful to the institutions that you have contacted.


Please do not e-mail requests for police patches, department policy prohibits responding to such inquiries.