Identity Theft

500,000 – 700,000 victims per year (FBI Statistics)

What constitutes identity theft?

  • Thieves opening bank/credit union accounts in your name
  • Applications for housing, government benefits, utility services
  • Access to existing accounts: credit cards, checking accounts, utility accounts, savings and investment accounts

How does identity theft occur?

  • “Dumpster Diving”
  • “Shoulder Surfing”
  • At home — your mailbox and garbage cans
  • At work — security breaches, unprotected employee files
  • “Pretexting” — someone pretending to be you to obtain your private records or information
  • Roommates and family members
  • Group identity theft (businesses, government agencies and schools)
  • Theft of computers/laptops

How you can stop identity theft!

  • Do not disclose confidential information (bank account numbers, PIN numbers, SS#) to unknown telephone solicitors
  • Personal information should be kept in a safe location — not left curbside!
  • Shred/burn all discarded mail offers, including credit card solicitations
  • Put your wallet on a “diet”
  • Avoid disclosing your Social Security number (financial and government services being the exceptions)

The proactive approach #1 — Your credit report

  • Free booklet (handout) — Credit Bureaus and Credit Reports
  • Order a free report online from
  • “Fraud alerts” and “file freezes”

Method #2 — Reduce your incoming mail

  • Call: 1-888-5 OPTOUT (Eliminate credit card offers)
  • Write: Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 643 Carmel, NY 10512 (Most mail solicitations will stop) Include your name, address and phone number in your signed letter.

Method #3 – Reduce telemarketing calls

  • Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry 1-888-382-1222 www.DONOTCALL.GOV

If you are a victim

  • Contact your/the financial institution/utility/etc.
  • File a report with the local police
  • Call the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Hotline 1-877-438-4338
  • If through the mail, speak with the U.S. Postal Inspectors 1-800-372-8347
  • If the case involves a bank or credit union, call the Maine Bureau of Financial Institutions at 1-800-965-5235
  • When your credit report has been adversely affected, call the Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection at 1-800-332-8529

The Fundamentals of Protecting Your Financial “Health”

  • Destroy all unutilized mail offers
  • Shred/burn, don’t dump personal identity information
  • Order your credit reports once a year
  • Never provide personal financial information to unknown: U.S. Mail, Internet or telephone solicitors.
  • Always ask for “tissue” copies of carbonized credit/debit card receipts
  • Check with a government agency before committing to a new financial transaction — unsolicited investment products, unknown loan company or financial institution, or charity.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!