Identity Theft Protection Tips
Identity theft is a crime in which an impostor obtains key pieces of personal identifying information (PII) such as Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers and uses them for their own personal gain. It can start with lost or stolen wallets, stolen mail, a data breach, computer virus, “phishing” scams, or paper documents thrown out by you or a business in a trash container.
How can I minimize my risk of becoming an identity theft victim?
As consumers, you have little ability to stop or prevent identity theft. However, there are some positive steps to take which will decrease your risk.
Don’t give out your SSN unnecessarily (only for tax reasons, credit or verified employment.) Before providing personal identifiers, know how it will be used and if it will be shared.
Use a cross-cut shredder to dispose of documents with personal information. Also, use a specialized gel pen when writing out checks.
STRENGTHEN PASSWORDS- should be more than 8 characters in length, contain both capital & lowercase letters and either one number or non-alphabetic character. Use of non-dictionary words is also recommended-such as an acronym that you can remember. Avoid using children, spouse or pet names as they are the easiest to find out.
HANDLE PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION WITH CARE- NEVER share your personal information, including birthday, Social Security number or banking account information. Use a cross-cut shredder to dispose of documents with personal information. Use firewall software to protect your computer information and keep virus and spyware software programs up to date on your computer.
READ CREDIT REPORTS ANNUALLY – reduce the number of preapproved credit card offers you receive by calling 888-5OPT-OUT (888-567-8688). Know your billing cycles and contact creditors when bills fail to show up. Review bank and credit card statements carefully for any unusual activity. Password protect your financial accounts with a strong password-never use the same password for your accounts. Order your free annual credit reports online at www.annualcreditreport.com for by calling 877-322-8228 and look over your information for any strange or unfamiliar accounts/activity. You can also freeze your credit report – for more information go to www.idtheftcenter.org/States/southcarolina
EMPTY YOUR PURSE/WALLET – don’t carry any credit cards or other personal id that are not necessary and never carry your social security card with you
DISCUSSS TIPS WITH FRIENDS/FAMILY- talk about and discuss these tips as well as others with family and friends and be aware of scams and/or other fraudulent activities around your area, especially that target the elderly family members and friends
What can I do to protect myself against fraud?
Never wire money to someone you don’t know – regardless of the situation. Once you wire money, you cannot get it back.
Do not accept offers from anyone, including those claiming to be CPW employees, to pay your bill or provide any other service for a fee.
Don’t assume the name and number on your caller ID are legitimate. Caller IDs can be spoofed.
Do not click links or call numbers that appear in unexpected emails or texts – especially those asking for your account information. If you click on a link, your computer could become infected with malware, including viruses that can steal your information and ruin your computer.
Occasionally, CPW MAY call you to discuss your account. If we do, we will provide you with information that only you and CPW would know in order to validate that our call is legitimate. If, after receiving the information, you are uncomfortable providing personal information by phone, or if you believe the call is a scam, hang up and call the company directly at 864-942-8100.
CPW customers who have delinquent accounts receive multiple notifications from the company prior to service disconnection CPW will never give a single notification one hour before disconnection.
CPW never asks or requires customers who have delinquent accounts to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid service disconnection. Customers can make payments online, by phone, by automatic bank draft, by mail or in person.
If you’re concerned there may really be a problem with your services, contact CPW by calling the number listed on your monthly bill.
Utilities – How to report fraudulent utility charges and accounts
Contact the utility or service provider- close the account that the identity thief opened
Contact your State Public Utility Commission for additional help 803-896-5100
Consumers who are the victims of identity theft or would like tips on protecting their personal information and avoiding scams can contact the Identity Theft Unit at the SC Department of Consumer Affairs toll-free at 800.922.1594 or online @ www.consumer.sc.gov.