Identity Theft Prevention
What are identity theft and identity fraud?
Both terms are used to describe crimes in which someone unlawfully obtains and uses another person's personal information. Identity theft occurs when an unauthorized party accesses your personal information or data, such as your name, Social Security number ("SSN"), financial account number, birth date, personal identification number ("PIN"), or credit card information. Identity fraud occurs when someone fraudulently obtains and then uses your personal information or data without your permission.
How does someone obtain my personal information?
Identity thieves have become increasingly sophisticated. Here are some ways in which they may be able to acquire your personal information:
- By taking mail right out of your own mail box that is addressed to you and which could contain your personal information
- "Dumpster diving," which is trolling through trash in an effort to find discarded documents containing personal information
- By sending you e-mail offers that ask for your personal information is a practice known as "phishing." If you enter your login information on a phony web site, your user name and password can be stolen.
- By installing computer viruses through hidden programs on your personal computer. These programs can transmit data about user names and passwords for a variety of web sites.
- By installing computer software on public access computers that can log your keystrokes and can capture your passwords and PINs.
How can I protect myself from identity theft?
- Review all of your credit card, bank or investor account activity on a frequent basis. If you see a charge you don't recognize, contact your card issuer or financial institution as soon as possible. The sooner your financial institution is notified of the problem, the faster they can work with you to contain the impact of the unauthorized activity. If it is an issue that concerns your Pioneer investor statements please call us at:
1-800-225-6292 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. eastern time, Monday through Friday.
- Shred any papers you throw away that have any identifying numbers on them, like brokerage account numbers or your Social Security number and also shred any credit card offers you receive in the mail.
- Be protective of you Social Security number. Don't give out your Social Security number unless you're sure you can trust the party requesting it; don't have your Social Security number printed on your checks, don't carry it with you all the time; and don't use the last four digits of your SSN or telephone number as a PIN number.
- Check your credit report periodically. If you see any areas of concern, contact that credit bureau.
- Consider using direct deposit. The electronic transfer of funds is generally more efficient and secure than transacting with physical checks.
- Carry only what you need for the day. Don't routinely carry all of your credit cards, your birth certificate, PIN numbers or Social Security card.
- Don't respond to e-mail solicitations that ask for personal information. Verify any request to update your contact information by calling your bank or credit card issuer directly at its published telephone number.
- When shopping online, look for the locked padlock icon on the order screen. You should also see the URL change from "http" to "https," which indicates better security for your personal information. Don't save your credit card information online at website stores that you frequently shop. Always re-enter your credit card information every time that you order something. Make sure to use virus-protection software on your home and work computers. Don't ever let your subscription expire - renew it before it becomes too late.
- If you keep personal information on laptops or mobile devices consider encrypting it.
- Be suspicious. A rather large percentage of reported identity theft cases involved someone known to the identity theft victim.
What should I do if I'm a victim of identity theft?
- Take immediate action to minimize damage to your credit record and to ensure that you are not held accountable for debts incurred by someone using your name and account information.
- Keep a record of all correspondence and conversations that you have had with companies such as financial institutions, the business where the suspected theft occurred, credit bureaus and law enforcement agencies.
- Send all correspondence by certified mail, request a return receipt, document and make copies of what you sent. Keep copies of everything.
Who should I contact and what steps should I take if I'm a victim of identity theft?
- Contact the fraud department of the three major credit bureaus and place a fraud alert on your credit file.
- Contact your financial institution if you believe that your account has been tampered with or an account in your name has been fraudulently opened. Follow up any of your requests to close accounts in writing to the financial institution and supply copies of any supporting documentation. You may want to send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested so that you can document when and what the company received and keep copies of everything that you have sent to them.
- File a report with your local police department once you receive a report from your financial institution. Obtain a copy of the police report to help you deal with creditors who may request proof of the crime.
- Continue to monitor activity on your accounts either online or by reviewing your paper statements.
Depending on the nature of the incident, you may also want to contact:
- The Federal Trade Commission
- The Social Security Administration
- Your other Credit card issuers
- Your bank
- The Department of Motor Vehicles (to flag your driver's license)
- The State Department (if you believe that your passport information has compromised)>
- The Post Office (to see if a change of address form has been submitted)
- The Internal Revenue Service
- Your State's Attorney General's Office