How to protect yourself, your reputation and your assets.
Identity theft is a growing issue. As we have become more digitally engaged, thieves have gained opportunities to discover information about you. Luckily, there are actions you can take to protect you and your family from identity theft.
Why protect yourself?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information like your name, social security number or date of birth, with the intent to commit a fraud.
Certain groups are more likely to be targets of identity theft including the young and the more affluent. Once someone steals your identity, it can cost thousands of dollars or more and take hundreds of hours to resolve. Here are different methods used to steal someone’s identity.
Avoid being a victim
Knowing what to look out for and making sure you routinely monitor and safeguard your personal information is essential. Here are some of the dos and don’ts to keep in mind.
- Buy and use a paper shredder on documents that contain personal information
- Regularly check your credit report for unusual activity
- Install virus protection on your computer
- Store important documents like bank statements in a locked place
- Click on links in unsolicited emails
- Give information to just anyone who calls you. Call back customer service to confirm the request is legitimate.
- Trust caller ID – it can be manipulated to show misleading information
- Carry your Social Security card
If you become a victim of identity theft, here are some actions you can take to help get your identity and finances back under your control.
- File an Initial Fraud Alert with a credit reporting agency and consider putting a credit freeze on file with all three credit reporting agencies.
- Access your credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies. Look over each report carefully and note any detail that isn’t yours.
- File an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission to let federal and local authorities know about the crime.
- File a police report.
- For each fraudulent entry on your credit report, you’ll need to file a dispute with the fraud department of each credit reporting agency and contact any lenders or collections agencies associated with the activity.
Identity theft can affect everyone
Identity theft is not limited to adults. Children can also be victims. In fact, every year more than 1 million children in the U.S. are victims of Identity theft1 and often the theft isn’t discovered for years.
Here are steps to take now to prevent a child’s identity, or your own, from being stolen.
- Don’t overshare personal details such as Social Security numbers. Ask if a Social Security number is actually required or can other information be substituted.
- Keep sensitive personal and financial information out of sight and locked up.
- For a child, be on the alert for red flags like collections calls or mailings for preapproved credit card offers.
1 Javelin Strategy & Research, 2018 Child Identity Fraud Study, 2018 (Latest available data)