Ask an Expert: Sgt. Jeremy Polk

Sgt. Jeremy Polk (Photo by Michael Clements)How can you protect yourself against identity theft?

Identity theft is difficult to prevent because thieves continually find new ways to commit the crime. Many times identity theft occurs online, and the thief may even be in another country. UNT police Sgt. Jeremy Polk says people need to know and respond immediately if their identity is stolen and be especially vigilant in protecting financial information.

"Be a little OCD about your finances," Polk says. "A lot of people don't review their bank statements or they just log on to pay a bill and don't look closely enough at the activity on their account."

Polk conducts seminars for student groups on campus and others, offering tips for preventing identity theft and for responding if it happens.

Protect and prevent

  • Don't leave personal information like your Social Security number, date of birth, passwords, personal identification numbers, birth certificate or bank account information where others can find it.
  • Educate yourself about Internet fraud.
  • Be or befriend a trusty computer geek to help ensure that the information you store in your computer is protected.
  • Cancel unused credit cards.

Know when you're a victim

  • Control your finances. Look closely at your bank and credit card statements for unauthorized charges.
  • Use alerts that banks and credit card providers offer to let you know if a large or unusual charge is made on your account.
  • Request credit reports regularly at annualcreditreport.com. You are entitled to receive a free credit report each year from each of the three reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Stagger those requests so you can receive a report every four months.

Respond quickly

  • Notify your bank or credit card company immediately if you see suspicious activity on your account.
  • File reports first online with the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint and then with local police. The FTC's online form includes all the information local police will need to make their report, so filing that report first can save you time.

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