Protect against identity theft

Protect against identity theft

Elaine Morgillo
4/29/2007 – Criminals are clever, so take measures to safeguard credit

Print this Article Email this Article Share April 29, 2007 6:00 AM
Earlier last week, banking associations in Maine, Connecticut and Massachusetts announced plans to file a class-action suit against TJX Companies Inc., claiming that it negligently represented the security of its computer system. As a result of a security breach that may have lasted from 2003 through 2006, information about more than 45 million consumers who used credit or debit cards at TJ Maxx, Marshalls, AJ Wright or HomeGoods stores may have been stolen.

Commenting on the TJX matter earlier this year, New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte said, “In this day and age of credit and debit card use and computer record-keeping, it is essential that consumers study their financial statements to determine if the charges are accurate. If you have been a victim of this or any security breach, I urge (New Hampshire residents) to call the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Bureau hotline at 1-888-468-4454. Valuable information can also be found on our Web site at”

Unfortunately, there are many ways creative criminals can compromise your financial security. Everyone should closely monitor their credit card bills, bank statements and credit reports, but nowadays we all need to be especially vigilant.

Shred documents that contain account numbers, Social Security numbers and other identifying information before disposing of them. Do not disclose your Social Security number unless required by law.

If you suspect you may be the victim of identity theft, you must not delay taking action. The following suggestions were provided by the office of the Massachusetts Attorney General:

1. Call one of the three major credit bureaus and place a one-call fraud alert on your credit report:

Equifax: Call (800) 525-6285 or write to P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241.
Experian: Call (888) 397-3742 or write to P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013.
TransUnion: Call (800) 680-7289 or write to Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790.

You only need to call one of the three credit bureaus; the one you contact is required by law to contact the other two. The alert will remain in your credit file for at least 90 days. The fraud alert requires creditors to contact you before opening any new accounts or increasing credit limits on your existing accounts. When you place a fraud alert on your credit report, all three credit bureaus are required to send you a credit report free of charge.

2. Order a copy of your credit report and look for unauthorized activity. Look carefully for unexplained activity on your credit report.

3. If you believe there is unexplained activity, consider placing an extended fraud alert on your credit report. In order to do this, you must file a police report with your local police department, keep a copy for yourself, and provide a copy to one of the three major credit bureaus. Then, an extended fraud alert can be placed on your credit file for a seven-year period. While the extended fraud alert is on your file, anyone who checks your credit report, such as a credit card company or lender, will be notified that you do not authorize any new credit cards, any increase in credit limits, the issuance of a new card on an existing account or other increases in credit, unless the user takes extra precautions to ensure that it is giving the additional credit to you and not to an identity thief.

4. Contact the fraud departments of the credit card issuer or bank that may have been affected and request that they monitor your account for suspicious activity. As an extra precaution, you should ask that they cancel the affected account and issue a new credit or ATM/debit card to you.

The Federal Trade Commission has also prepared a list of excellent suggestions to help you protect yourself. Contact them at 1-877-382-4357 or visit

Elaine Morgillo is a Certified Financial Planner and president of Morgillo Financial Management Inc. She has offices in York, Maine, and Andover, Mass., and can be reached at

florida shredding