Over the past several years, identity theft has been on the rise. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that in 2010 approximately 8.6 million American households have had at least one person over the age of 12 who was the victim of identity theft.1 In 2012, in New Jersey over 8,400 people reported that they were the victim of identity theft.2
The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office is making a concerted effort to combat identity theft in Monmouth County. This page is designed to present the residents of Monmouth County with the information they need to protect themselves from this type of crime.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity Theft occurs when someone uses your personal identifying information for his or her own personal gain. This includes things such as using your credit card number to make unauthorized charges, opening credit cards in your name and not paying the bills, opening bank accounts in your name, taking out loans in your name, and establishing phone, wireless, or Internet service in your name, among others. In New Jersey, the most likely form identity theft takes is government documents or benefits fraud. In 2012, 36% of the identity theft complaints in New Jersey were the result of government documents or benefits fraud, while the national average was 46.4%.3 Credit card fraud constituted the second most likely form of identity theft in New Jersey at 17%, while the national average was 13.4%.4
How Does Identity Theft Happen?
Identity thieves employ many different methods to obtain someone's personal information. Some of these methods are increasingly high-tech, though most are simple and easy to accomplish. Below are the most common methods identity thieves use.
- Stealing your wallet or purse.
- Stealing your personal information from your home.
- Stealing your mail.
- Obtaining the information from a business by stealing it while they work, bribing employees, or hacking the records.
- Posing as someone who has a legal right to your information, such as a landlord or an employer, to get your credit report.
- "Skimming" - capturing your credit or debit card number in a data storage device attached to a credit card machine or ATM.
- "Phishing"/"Pretexting" - posing as a legitimate company that needs your information, either on the phone or online.
- "Dumpster Diving" - rummaging through disposed of trash for personal information (i.e. financial statements or credit card receipts, etc.)
What Can You Do About Identity Theft?
To Protect Yourself from Becoming a Victim
In order to keep from becoming a victim, you should do the following:
- Review your financial and account statements promptly and carefully.
- Review your credit report regularly. You have the right to obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the three national credit reporting companies each year. Requesting your free copy from one company every four months allows you to closely monitor your credit report.
- Password protect your accounts.
- Secure your personal information inside your home.
- Secure your personal information in cyberspace. Do not post information such as your date of birth, social security number, pet's name or high school name on public social networking sites. This information can easily be used by identity thieves to verify your identity.
- Ask about information security procedures at work and other institutions that collect your information.
- Be cautious about who you give your information to. Verify that the person you are speaking with is affiliated with the business, whether on the phone or online.
- Put mail in postal collection boxes or drop it off at the local post office instead of leaving it in your mailbox at home. Remove incoming mail from your mailbox promptly and consider using a locked mailbox.
- Shred credit card receipts, bank statements, and other items bearing your personal information before disposing them.
- Safely dispose of other items containing your personal information, such as computers and mobile devices. If possible, wipe these devices of all data prior to disposing of them.
- Only provide your Social Security Number when absolutely necessary.
- Be aware of your surroundings when using ATMs. Only use bank ATMs; avoid the stand-alone machines.
- Consider opting out of receiving pre-screened mail offers for credit and insurance. You can opt out by calling 1-888-567-8688 or visiting http://www.optoutprescreen.com. You can choose to opt out for a five-year period or permanently. If you choose to opt out, you can subsequently opt in to resume receiving pre-screened mail offers. This service is offered and operated by the three nationwide credit reporting companies.
What to Do if You've Been a Victim of Identity Theft
- File a report with your local police department. (In New Jersey, your local police department is required to take your complaint and provide you with a copy of the report. N.J.S.A. 2C:21-17.6)
- Place a security freeze on your credit report with all three credit reporting agencies. N.J.S.A. 56:11-46, et. seq. A security freeze will prevent your credit report from being accessed by most potential creditors. For more information on placing a security freeze on your credit reports, and the consequences of the freeze, please visit the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance "Security Freeze" page at http://www.state.nj.us/dobi/creditfreeze.htm
- Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission.
Where Can I Find More Information? How Do I Contact these Agencies?
Federal Trade Commission
You can file a complaint online at www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/ or call the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline at 1 877/ IDTHEFT (1 877/438-4338); TTY 1 866/ 653-4261.
Consumer Credit Reporting Agencies
- Equifax - www.equifax.com/home/; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, Georgia 30374-0241; call 1-888-768-0008 to place a fraud alert on your report.
- Experian - www.experian.com; 1 888/ EXPERIAN (1 888/ 397-3742);
- TransUnion - www.transunion.com; 1 800/ 680-7289; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, California 92834-6790; call 1 800/ 680-7289 to report fraud and identity theft or place a fraud alert on your report.
Check Verification Companies
- Telecheck - http://www.firstdata.com/telecheck/telecheck-check-fraud.htm; TeleCheck Services Inc., Attention Forgery Department, P.O. Box 4451, Houston, TX 77210-4451; 1-800-710-9898; (402) 916-8180 (Forgery Department fax)
- Certegy, Inc. - https://www.askcertegy.com/ask_certegy.jsp; P.O. Box 30296, Tampa, Florida 33630-3296; 1-800-237-3826; (727) 570-4936 (fax number for reporting forgeries)
- Chex Systems, Inc. - www.consumerdebit.com; Attn: Consumer Relations, 7805 Hudson Road, Suite 100, Woodbury, MN 55125;1 800/ 428-9623; Fax 602/ 659-2197.
Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
United States Secret Service
United States Social Security Administration
To receive your annual free credit report contact:
Annual Credit Report Request Service at www.annualcreditreport.com; P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, Georgia 30348-5281
1 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics - Crime Data Brief: Identity Theft Reported by Households, 2005 - 2010, http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/itrh0510.pdf.
2 Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Sentinel Network Databook, January - December, 2012, http://www.ftc.gov/sentinel/reports/sentinel-annual-reports/sentinel-cy2012.pdf (accessed February 28, 2013).
3 Id.(accessed February 28, 2013).
4 Id.(accessed February 28, 2013).