New law helps prevent identity theft

New law helps prevent identity theft Beginning July 1, Senate Bill 129 went into effect, and the display of Social Security numbers on driver licenses or non-driver identification cards will be prohibited. On Feb. 23, Gov. Mike Rounds signed the bill, which does not require people to have their current driver license re-issued until their normal renewal date.

�In the past, people�s social security numbers could be on their driver licenses at the request of the applicant. But with the ever-growing trend of identity theft, it is important that we work to deter those who want to misuse our personal information,� said Cindy Gerber, South Dakota Driver Licensing director. �This new law is important for South Dakota and our personal security, because unlike our fingerprints, personal information such as our social security numbers is easily accessible and used for unlawful purposes without our knowledge.

In addition to not using social security numbers on driver licenses, citizens should also do the following to protect themselves and to guard against identity theft:

? Guard your mail and trash from theft. Shred discarded credit card offers, credit applications, bank statements, check and credit card statements.

? Leave your Social Security card in a secure location and do not carry it with you.

? Only carry a manageable number of credit or debit cards in your wallet.

? Be wary of promotional scams. Identity thieves may use phone offers to get you to give them your personal information.

? Take advantage of the free credit reports once a year from each of the three national credit reporting agencies at www.annualcreditreport.com.

�Identity theft is considered the fastest growing crime according to the Federal Trade Commission,� said Gerber. �We want to help protect citizens by helping educate them about preventing identity theft.�

If you think you�re a victim of identity theft, you should do three things:

1. Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, 800-525-6285; Experian, 888-397-3742; TransUnion, 800-680-7289.

Tell them that you are a victim and request that a �fraud alert� be placed in your file, as well as a victim�s statement that asks creditors to call you before opening any new accounts or changing your existing ones. At the same time, order copies of your credit reports. Check for errors or fradulent accounts.

2. Close the accounts that you know or believe have been opened fraudulently. This includes credit card accounts, ATM cards and checks.

3. File a police report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Get a copy of the police report because often times the bank or credit card company will need proof of the crime in order to erase debts created by identity theft.

Accurate and complete records will greatly improve a person�s chances of resolving an identity theft case.

Follow up in writing with all contacts made on the phone or in person. Use certified mail. Keep copies of all correspondence or forms you send. Write down the name of anyone you talk to, the date and conversation. Keep old files even if you believe your case is closed. One of the most difficult and annoying aspects of identity theft is that errors can reappear on your credit reports.

In addition to the new driver licensing law, consumers will have additional protection when the penalty for identity theft increases from a class one misdemeanor to a class six felony on July 1, 2006.

For more information about identity theft, visit www.state.sd.us/dps/dl.

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