SAFEGUARD YOUR IDENTITY
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in our nation. The Broward Sheriff's Office is investigating more than 380 active cases right now. With many of these "active" cases, the crimes actually occurred months before they were ever reported.
Identity theft occurs when an imposter obtains key pieces of information such as Social Security and driver's license numbers to obtain credit, merchandise and services in the name of the victim. The victim is left with a ruined credit history that can be extremely difficult to repair. Some victims unwittingly supply vital personal data to smooth-talking criminals, who may pose as bank representatives or law enforcement officers. In other cases, criminals use their computer savvy to glean personal information without any interaction with their victims. The victims often have no idea that their identities have been compromised until creditors begin to inquire about outstanding bills.
Our agency recognized this problem and initiated Shred-A-Thon events throughout the summer and fall. From Cooper City to Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, we have assisted residents with shredding more than 12 tons of documents containing personal information. Additionally, our deputies have been distributing educational material with important safety information to residents of Broward County.
While it is difficult to prevent identity theft, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of becoming a victim:
- Share identity information only when necessary. Never give anyone your credit card number unless you initiated the transaction. If someone calls you on the phone and asks for your credit card number or social security number, don't give it to them! Social Security numbers should not be provided to anyone other than employers or financial institutions that need them for tax reporting purposes.
- Do not carry unnecessary identification cards. Thieves usually obtain identity information through the loss or theft of purses and wallets. To reduce the risk, only carry the basics, such as your driver's license, one credit or debit card and an insurance card.
- Secure your mailbox. The second most common way that thieves obtain identity information is through stolen mail. Many thieves raid mailboxes as soon as the postal carrier is through. Never place outgoing mail in an unlocked residential mailbox.
- Secure information on your personal computer. Credit card numbers should not be provided to anyone on the Internet unless you initiated the contact.
- Shred documents containing identity information before tossing them in the trash. This includes credit or debit card receipts, canceled bank checks and statements and junk mail, especially pre-approved credit applications. If you can, purchase an inexpensive home shredder.
- Promptly review all bank and credit card statements for accuracy. Report any irregularities to your bank or credit card company and the three main credit reporting agencies.
When someone realizes they have become a victim of identity theft, they should immediately file a report with the Broward Sheriff's Office or their local police agency where the identity theft occurred.
The women and men of BSO are committed to fighting identity theft.
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