It’s the newest crime. It’s called identity theft and it’s on the rise. Identity theft involves stealing another person’s identity. In other words, the thief “becomes you” and then spends your money. While Wisconsin outlawed identity theft, consumers still need to take the steps necessary to protect themselves from theft in their daily lives.

Identity Theft Warning signs: You get bills, credit card statements or calls from businesses or collection agencies you know nothing about.

Consumer’s Best Defense:

  • Do not give credit card numbers, Social Security numbers or other personal identifying information, such as your mother’s maiden name, to anyone over the phone. Legitimate financial institutions never call asking for personal information.
  • Do not include your Social Security number on your checks.
  • Ask a business to substitute a secret alpha-numeric code (aa11bb) as a password instead of your mother’s maiden name.
  • Closely review your credit card bills and bank statements for charges you did not authorize.
  • Do not have your Social Security number printed on your checks, and do not allow merchants to write your SSN on your checks.
  • Cancel your unused credit cards so their account numbers will not appear on your credit report.
  • Use credit cards that have your photo and signature on the front.
  • Ask businesses what their privacy policies are and how they will use your information. Can you choose to keep it confidential? Do they restrict access to data?
  • Protect your incoming and outgoing mail. Remove mail from your mailbox as soon as possible. Deposit your mail in a blue collection box or take it to the post office. Leaving that red flag up on your mailbox can alert thieves that there is something of value in the box.
  • Deter thieves from going through your garbage. Tear up credit card slips, monthly bank statements or loan checks into bits. You even may want to scatter them in different trash bins.
  • When you fill out a loan or credit application, be sure that the business either shreds these applications or stores them in locked files.
  • Be extra careful with ATM receipts, credit card slips and bank information.
  • Always take ATM or credit card receipts. Only carry with you the credit cards you plan to use.
  • If you prefer to not receive offers of pre-approved financing or credit – “opt out”. Call 888-5opt-out, which is sponsored by the three major credit bureaus.
  • The Direct Marketing Association offers service to help reduce the number of mail and telephone solicitations. Mail your name, home address and signature to:

    Mail Preference Service,

    Direct Marketing Association

    P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008

This information is being provided as a service from Wisconsin River Bank. Additional articles on how to protect yourself from identity fraud and steps to take if you are a victim:

Prevent Identity Fraud
Steps to Take if You’re a Victim
General Credit Report Links