Don't be a victim to identity theft

(Courtesy Photo)

(Courtesy Photo)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. Unfortunately, identity theft can happen to anyone at any time. Many identity thieves search trash cans for personal information such as old bills or statements--both at home and in work areas. Thieves tend to target areas where they have access to medical offices, government agencies and personal information. You can reduce your risks.

Obtain a credit report at least once a year. You have the right to a free credit report every 12 months. To order a credit report, visit annualcreditreport.com or call (1-877) 322-8228. Also, make sure to read bank and credit card statements. If there are any issues shown on the statement, make sure you contact the business in question. Shred documents that show personal, financial and medical information before throwing it away. Maintain accounts and use different, complex passwords for each one. 

There are three key steps to execute if your identity is stolen:

First; flag credit reports. Call one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies and ask for a fraud alert. Ask the company to notify the other two main credit reporting companies as well. The three main credit reporting companies are: Equifax (1-800) 525-6285; Experian (1-888) 397-3742; and TransUnion (1-800) 680-7289. An initial fraud alert is good for 90 days.

Next; order the credit reports. All of the credit companies are slightly different, so make sure you order one from each credit reporting company. Once you receive your credit reports, read through each one thoroughly to ensure there are no mistakes or signs of fraud. If you detect errors or frauds contact the credit report company immediately.

Last; create an identity theft report. An identity theft report will assist in removing fraud from your credit report and may assist in stopping companies from collecting debt resulting from an identity theft. To create an identity theft report you need to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint or call (1-877) 438-4338; this is called an FTC Affidavit. You can take the FTC Affidavit to your local police and file a police report. This can be used as evidence of the identity theft. Make sure you receive a copy of the police report.

For military members there are a few other tips:

If your common access card is stolen, remember to contact 92nd Security Forces Squadron and the 92nd Force Support Squadron Military Personnel Flight as soon as possible.

If you are deploying or making a permanent change of station overseas, consider placing an "active duty alert" on your credit reports. The alert requires creditors to take extra steps to verify your identity before granting credit in your name. The alert lasts a year, but can be renewed. You can create an alert by calling the fraud department of one of the credit reporting companies. You can also request that the credit reporting company notify the other two main credit reporting companies of the alert.

For more information regarding identity theft, or other legal issues, such as family law, wills, landlord-tenant and powers of attorney, visit the legal office. The legal office is located in the wing headquarters building, suite 121. Below are their office hours of operations and services provided:

Wills for Active Duty members and Dependents: Every Wednesday (by appointment only)
Power Of Attorneys and Notaries - Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Legal Assistance (Walk-ins) - Tuesday and Thursday, 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

The material in this article represents general legal principlesThe law is continually changing; although   the information in this article was current as of the date it was drafted, some provisions may have changed.  It is always best to consult an attorney about your legal rights and responsibilities regarding your particular case.