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Identity Theft

Even though there is no way to guarantee that you won't experience identity theft at some point, there are actions that reduce the risk of falling victim. At ESL, we understand that your personal information is as important to you as your savings. While we don’t have a vault for your personal information, we want to help you keep it safe! 

Things to know:

  • You can get assistance from an ESL Fraud Representative.
  • A fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open accounts in your name.
  • Change your passwords frequently using multiple characters, cases, and numbers.
  • Use a confetti shredder to destroy documents before throwing them away.
  • A security freeze is a surefire way to put a lockdown on your credit.
  • If you’re a victim, order your credit reports, file a police report, and contact the fraud departments of accounts that have been impacted.
  • Prevention

    You could spend hours a day learning about new ways criminals try to steal your information, and you still wouldn’t know every trick they use. Instead of fretting over identity theft, it makes more sense to focus on how it happens and how to prevent it. Statistics show that the typical victim of identity theft will spend 30 hours and $500 clearing their name and credit. For this reason, it's vital to take steps to minimize the risk of falling victim.

    Top things you can do to minimize your risk:

    1. Be very selective about giving out personal information.
    2. Limit the information you supply via Internet.
    3. Change your passwords frequently using multiple characters, cases, and numbers. Take a look at OnGuardOnline to learn more about Internet safety.
    4. Don’t carry your Social Security Card with you.
    5. Don’t answer suspicious emails or phone calls asking for information updates.
    6. Use a confetti shredder to destroy documents before throwing them away.
    7. Check your annual credit reports regularly at or call 877.322.8228.

    The Federal Trade Commission has a full description of things you can do to minimize your risk of identity theft.

    A quick look at how identity theft commonly occurs:

    1. Dumpster Diving means wrongdoers look through trash to locate documents containing sensitive personal information or account information, such as Social Security Numbers, credit card account numbers, bank account numbers, etc.
    2. Skimming is a practice where a special storage device is used to "swipe" your card.
    3. Phishing is the practice of sending email messages or displaying browser pop ups that appear to be generated by a legitimate financial institution.
    4. Criminals will complete a "change of address" form at a post office diverting your billing statements to another location where they can access the information.
    5. Shoulder surfing happens when a criminal simply observes you completing a transaction to hopefully see or hear sensitive personal information, such as a PIN or Social Security Number.
    6. Stealing purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; preapproved credit offers; and new checks, tax information, or personnel records from their employers. Some may even try to bribe employees who have access.

    For further information on privacy, identity, and online security refer to the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Information website.

  • Freezing Your Report

    If you’ve fallen victim to identity theft or are worried about fraud, there’s a surefire way to put a lockdown on your credit—A Security Freeze. This action makes a credit file off-limits to potential creditors preventing fraudulent accounts from being opened in your name.

    In the usual credit application process, a creditor will check a consumer's credit report before approving a new loan or line of credit. Without the ability to access your credit report, most creditors will reject any applications made. Unfortunately, this can also make it difficult for you to apply for credit when you actually want to. Not to fear—security freezes can be lifted temporarily or permanently using a personal identification number (PIN) given to you by the credit reporting agency.

    Security freezes have to be enacted separately with the three major reporting agencies:

    1. Equifax 2. Experian 3. TransUnion

    For detailed instructions on filing security freezes, read Security Freeze Process.

    To figure out if a security freeze is right for you, take a look at Security Freeze Pros and Cons.

  • Recovery

    When the average person hears the term “identity theft,” they often think of someone running around pretending to be them. In reality, identity theft (ID theft) is a crime where personal information is taken and used fraudulently. Most commonly, ID theft happens when a criminal gains access to a credit card number or bank account number and makes unapproved purchases or withdrawals.

    Being a victim of identity theft naturally brings about feelings of vulnerability and frustration. Know that you can recover. There are resources to help you fix your credit and restore your financial life. Depending upon the type of identity theft that occurred, there can be very precise actions required to get everything stable again. In every identity theft case, though, the following four steps are crucial:

    1. Start by placing a "fraud alert" on your credit report
      A fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open accounts in your name. When you have an alert on your report, a creditor must call you at a number that you register to verify your identity before issuing credit. You can issue an alert by contacting any of the three reporting agencies:
    2. Close any accounts that were tampered with or have been opened fraudulently
      Call the fraud departments of each company where the fraudulent accounts were opened. Follow up in writing with copies of supporting documents. Take a look a “Sample Letter Notifying Creditors about Compromised Accounts.”
    1. Order your credit reports to look for any other suspicious activity
      Go to or call 877.322.8228.
    1. Create an Identity Theft Report. To do so there are three steps:
      • Submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission to create an Identity Theft Affidavit.
      • Bring your Affidavit to your local police office and file a police report.
      • Attach the two together to create an Identity Theft Report.

    For a full description of the steps for recovering from identity theft, use the Identity Theft: A Recovery Plan workbook.

    To keep track of your communication and progress, you can use this “ID Theft Log.”