These are my notes from a presentation by Kenneth Tidwell about preventing identity theft presented at the Weatherford Public Library in Weatherford, Oklahoma on 10 April 2008. MY OWN THOUGHTS ARE IN ALL CAPS. I have recorded this session and will share later as a podcast. This is important info for everyone.

If you lose your wallet, are you giving people an opportunity to commit identity theft?
– don’t keep your SSN in your wallet

Video from on preventing identity theft (This link is to the FTC’s main site for identity theft information and resources.)

If someone asks for your social security number, ask why they need it

Protect your identity at all times

Be careful to even protect your trash, everyone should invest in a shredder
– identity thieves will steal your mail, trash and your wallet: that is how they get info about you
– never give out personal info on the phone or the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with

Story of a person whose identity was stolen by someone working at a pharmaceutical company
– in less than a month, an identity thief destroyed what I had been building (my credit) over my entire lifetime

It is very important to monitor your credit report regularly is a legit website
– US law gives you a right to get a copy once per year of your credit report

1st thing to do if you are a victim of identity theft: contact a credit agency and put a FRAUD ALERT on your account
– then contact each creditor and dispute in writing each instance of a creditor trying to collect

2nd report this to your local police department
– keep a record of the identity theft
– the police will likely refer you to more agencies to contact

3rd: Contact the Federal Trade Commission by internet or phone

Treat personal information like you would treat CASH
– your personal info IS cash
– in the wrong hands, your personal info can be used to destroy you

You can defend yourself if your identity has been stolen

If you don’t clear problems

We need to create a culture of personal security in our culture, so this crime will be diminished in the future

Your SSN is who you are
– it is your fingerprint
– if someone else gets a hold of your SSN, they can rob you blind (along with your name and date of birth)
– this can cost you time and money, destroy your credit and ruin your good name

It can take years to get this straightened out
– beware of phishing or fake emails

“dumpster divers” will get their hands dirty to get a hold of your personal information

There is no reason to carry around your social security card in your wallet or purse
– the IRS, an employer or a bank is about the only entity that needs to know your SSN

It is not required that you give law enforcement your SSN when asked for it, you can share another personally identifying number like your driver’s license

beware sharing your information with co-workers
– some co-workers will actually resell your personal information

don’t give your name and date of birth to someone who calls you on the phone to verify information
– get their name, and then call them back with the phone number that you KNOW is actually the bank’s number

Very important:
– detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements

3 D’s if identity theft protection:
1- Deter
2- Detect
3- Defend

make reports immediately if you think someone has stolen your identity
– if you can show you took immediate action as soon as you learned about identity theft

sometimes identity theft even happens between family members

don’t use obvious passwords

Lock up your information, keep it secure


Just get 1 credit report at a time, so you can check your credit report legally 3 times per year. (Use a different company once every 3 months.)

Movie with Tom Hanks and Leonardo Dicaprio were in the 2002 movie “Catch Me if You Can”
Frank W. Abagnale was/is the real person portrayed by Leonardo, who was (and possibly still is) employed by the FBI to help stop ID theft
– books by Abagnale:

“Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan” (Frank W. Abagnale)

“The Art of the Steal: How to Protect Yourself and Your Business from Fraud, America’s #1 Crime” (Frank W. Abagnale)

Credit card offers in the mail: Opt out!

FTC do not call site:

3 years ago when people were being arraigned in court in Oklahoma, people would be required to say ALOUD their correct social security number for everyone to hear!
– this has just recently changed

You can put a permanent “fraud alert” on your credit report or a temporary one

document and log EVERYTHING when you are working to protect your identity and salvage your credit if/when you have been a victim of identity theft

There are about 17,000 people in Oklahoma who are victims of identity theft per year now, but this number is growing rapidly

Years ago in Oklahoma, stock trailers had to have the owner’s social security number painted on the back of it, because SSNs were driver’s license numbers
– now, recommendation is to put your OWN number on it that you can recognize (a mark that you can identity and tell to law enforcement)
– it just needs some identify your trailer in a permanent way: weld, engrave, etc.

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One Response to Tips for avoiding identity theft

  1. […] had his wallet stolen, which included his social security card. Ironically I had just attended a presentation the previous evening by an Oklahoma police officer about identity theft, how to avoid it and what to do if you are a victim. Since I had just heard the presentation, I was […]

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