We’ve all seen those hysterical identity theft TV commercials where a man sits at home talking about spending money in a teenybopper’s voice. The scenario is all too common. There is no end to the ways your identity can be stolen and used. We have all heard the horror stories, and many of you many have already fallen prey to this type of theft and invasion of privacy. Everyone should protect their identity—but especially you, as actors. The audition process alone requires that you routinely hand over headshots and personal information to countless people.
With those concerns in mind, The SAG Foundation hosted an informative fraud seminar Actors Beware: How Not to Become a Victim of Identity Theft on January 28 in Hollywood to help educate members on this important topic. The impressive panel of experts included California State Senator Debra Bowen, who sponsored several identity theft bills; Linda and Jay Foley, founders and operators of the Identity Theft Resource Center; Gary Zuckerbrod, Casting Society of America; Karen Stuart, executive director, Association of Talent Agencies (ATA) and Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). SAG Director of Education & Outreach, Todd Amorde, moderated the conversation.
Here’s What We Learned...
Identity theft is a crime in which the imposter obtains key pieces of information such as Social Security Number and driver’s license numbers to obtain credit, merchandise and services in the name of the victim. The victim is left with a ruined credit history and the time-consuming and complicated task of regaining financial health. The imposter may even use the victim’s good name for criminal activities. And you may not even know what’s happening before it’s too late. Child actors are even more vulnerable because their problems may not surface until they come of age.
Seantor Bowen talked about the measures taken in California to help prevent ID theft. Many new laws have been enacted to protect consumers and to provide that employers properly destroy or store documents and remove your social security number from documents when being mailed through the postal service. All the panelists were committed to finding solutions to the problems actors encounter while securing work.
Here are some excellent tips on protecting your personal information and preventing ID theft:
- NEVER put your Social Security Number or driver’s license on your picture or resume. There is no reason to provide that information until you are hired.
- If you do not have an agent, use a cell phone number as your contact number.
- A post office box should be used instead of a home address.
- SHRED! Crosscut-shred sensitive papers before they go in the trash. This includes pre-approved credit card offers, checks, insurance benefit statements, bills, statements, anything with barcodes.
- Guard your Social Security Number—don’t carry your card or anything with your SSN in your wallet and resist giving it out unless absolutely necessary.
- Always ask, “Why do you need this information?” before handing over personal information.
- Don’t put your social security number on your checks. (Some experts advise against carrying a checkbook).
- Check your credit report once a year.
- Block your name from pre-approved credit card lists by calling 888/5OPTOUT.
- Guard your personal information. Carry as little as possible in your wallet. Get credit cards with your picture on them. Be alert to strangers listening for information.
- Cancel credit cards you no longer use.
- Use firewall software to protect your computer (www.zonealarm.com). Watch out for Internet scams
Identity Theft Contact Information
To check your credit report: TransUnion: 800-888-4213, www.tuc.com, (fraud division: 800-680-7289) TDD 800/553-7803
Experian: 888-EXPERIAN, www.experian.com, (fraud division: 888/397-3742), TDD 800/972-0322 Equifax: 800/685-1111, www.equifax.com (fraud division: 800/525-6285), Hearing impaired- use AT&T line. Have operator call the Auto Disclosure Line at 800/685-1111
CA laws to know: Found at www.leginfo.ca.gov
PC 530.6 – Establishes jurisdiction of record as where the victim lives and requires law enforcement in that jurisdiction to take a police report and give a copy to the victim.
PC 530.8 – Requires credit issuers to give ID theft victims and law enforcement copies of applications, application info and transaction information on accounts established in the victim’s name.