Identity theft is a big problem in the United States. It’s a headline news item almost every day. You might know someone who has been impacted or you may have even had a bad experience with it yourself. The worst part about identity theft is that you might not even realize your information has been compromised until you apply for a loan or check yourcredit, only to find that thousands of dollars in debt have been run up on credit accounts falsely opened in your name.
Even when the identity theft is obvious, it can take months for victims to clean up the mess and restore their good credit rating. No one should have to go through that.
In order to make things a little more difficult for identity thieves, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued the Red Flags Rule (16 C.F.R. part 681), which requires grantors of credit to create and use processes and procedures to protect the information an identity thief might use. The regulation goes into full effect on December 31, 2010.
Horry Electric Cooperative developed and adopted a Red Flags Program for Identity Theft and Credit Reporting Accuracy policy in October of 2008. It defines the term identifying information to mean any name or number that may be used, alone or in conjunction with any other information, to identify a specific person, including:
- Social Security number,
- date of birth,
- official state or government issued driver’s license or identification number,
- alien registration number,
- government passport number,
- employer or taxpayer identification number, or
Before development of the program, the Cooperative did not require all of the above identifying information from our existing or prospective members. However, we have begun to gather and maintain some of this information from new members on their application for service and, whenever possible, we solicit this information from existing members. Please help us out when we ask for this information as it is for your protection.
What will we do with this information? We will use it to identify you whenever you contact us with questions regarding your account. Let’s walk through an example. Say you are selling your home and want to request a final reading and close the account. If you come to the office, we will ask for some form of photo identification so we know it’s you. If you telephone, we will request identifying data such as the last four digits of your social security number or your date of birth. Just asking for an account number is not adequate as that information is readily obtained from a stolen bill. If you e-mail us, we will check the e-mail used against the e-mail we have on record for your account. If we do not have an e-mail on record, we may use another means to reply.
Times are changing and the bad guys are getting smarter and more devious so we are taking steps to minimize the potential for your personal information getting into the wrong hands.