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Loudoun County Sheriff's Department

Identity Theft: What is it? Preventative Measures:

18.2 - 186.3 State Code of Virginia defines identity theft as follows: it shall be unlawful for any person, without the authority or permission of the person who is the subject of the identifying information, with the intent to defraud, for his own use of the use of the third person to:

1. Obtain, record or access identifying information which is not available to the general public that would assist in accessing financial resources, obtaining identification documents, or obtaining benefits of such other person; or

2. Obtain goods or services through the use of identifying information of such other person; or

3. Obtain identification documents in such other persons name.

Your greatest asset for securing your good name is understanding where the thieves get your information. Here are a few of the many ways thieves can obtain your personal identifying information:

Coming into possession of your lost or stolen wallet or purse.

Stealing your mail, or diverting it to another mailbox via a change of address request.

"Dumpster Diving" into your trash and gathering important documents.

"Pretext" calls where the thief poses as your bank, internet services provider, or other organization with which you may or may not have financial dealing and they call you to "verify your account information" because of a problem they had with their "record system."

Other crimes such as burglary or breaking into a vehicle where the thief looks to steal financial information, wallets, purses, or other items containing such information.

Internet transactions or unsecured sites or with illegitimate companies posing as a reputable "safe" business with which you may do business.

Knowing how thieves get information, it is now clear how best to protect that information: you should begin immediately to practice these simple steps:

Protect your social security number, credit card numbers, account passwords, and other personal information. Use common sense, and be suspicious when things don't seem right. Never divulge your information over the phone unless you initiated the call. If personal information is requested ask questions. It is your right to know why it's needed, how it will be used, and who needs it.

Minimize the damage in case your wallet gets lost or stolen. Don't carry around more checks, credit cards, or other bank items than you really need. Limit the number of credit cards you carry by canceling the ones you don't use. Don't carry your social security number in your wallet or have it pre-printed on your checks. Pick passwords and PIN numbers that will be tough for someone else to figure out. Don't keep this information on or near your checkbook, ATM card or debit cards.

Protect your incoming and outgoing mail. Promptly remove mail from your mailbox after it has been delivered. If you're going on vacation have your mail held at your local post office or ask someone you know and trust to collect your mail. Deposit outgoing mail in the postal service's blue collection boxes, hand it directly to a mail carrier or take it to a local post office.

Keep thieves from turning your trash into their cash. "Dumpster Divers" pick through trash looking for pre-approved credit card applications and receipts, cancelled checks, bank statements, expired charge cards and other documents or information they can use to counterfeit or order new checks or credit cards. To keep these from happening use a "cross-cut" shredder and shred items.

Practice home security. Safely store checks, credit cards, or other financial documents. Don't advertise to burglars you are not at home. Use timers on your lights and temporarily stop delivery of your newspaper or mail and ask a trusted neighbor to pick up any items that may arrive unexpectedly at your home.

Pay attention to your bank account statements and credit card bills. Always check into discrepancies in your records or if you notice something suspicious, such as a missing payment or unauthorized withdrawal. Also, contact your institution if a bank statement or credit card bill doesn't arrive on time.

Practice "on-line" or internet safety. Be suspicious of web offers that seem too good to be true. Ensure the web site you are using is legitimate, or has been formally examined and certified secure and reliable by a legitimate certifying agency such as the Better Business Bureau.

If someone has stolen your identity, the Federal Trade Commission recommends you take three actions immediately.

1. First, contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus. Tell them to flag your file with a fraud alert.

2. Second, contact the creditors for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Follow up with a written statement.

3. Third, file a report with your local police or sheriff's department in the community where it took place. Keep a copy in case your creditors need proof of the crime.

In an effort to better reach out to the citizens of CountrySide, the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office Community Policing Section is providing new "Action Request Forms" to be made available. The form is self-explanatory and easy to complete. It can be completed and either mailed or dropped off at the CountrySide Proprietary Office. Expect your Community Policing Officer to personally contact you about your complaint. Confidentiality will be maintained if desired. The "Action Request Form" is not intended to substitute the efforts of traditional patrol but rather to initiate relief for issues that effect your quality of life and that need to be approached through more long-term problem solving strategies.

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