Identity Theft: The Facts
What is Identity Theft?
It is when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. It is a very serious crime that can wreak havoc with your finances, credit history and reputation. It can take a considerable amount of time, money and patients to resolve and repair the damage done.
There are usually signs your identity has been stolen if you know what to look for.
- Unexplained withdrawals from you bank account no matter how small.
- Charges on you credit card no matter how small that you can not explain.
- Bills or other important mail failing to arrive at you home
- Debt collectors calling about accounts or debts that you never incurred
- Accounts, credit cards or charges showing on your credit report
- Medical bills arriving for services you did not use
- Your health care provider rejects coverage for a medical procedure or services saying your limit has been reached or that service has already been used up.
- You are denied a life insurance or other policy due to a condition showing on your medical records you do not have.
- IRS informs you that multiple income tax forms where filed for you, or multiple employers are filing for you.
- A company who has your personal data reports a breach in their security.
You need to be vigilant of your credit reports and monitor your accounts regularly.
If you discover fraud or suspicious activity in your accounts and or credit report; first you need to contact one of the national credit reporting companies.
- Equifax 1-800-525-6285
- Experian 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion 1-800-680-7289
You will need to put a fraud alert on your identity. This is free and you only need to call one company they will inform the others. This will make it so that a company or bank needs to verify your identity before thy can issue a loan or open and account in your name. This will last for 90 days and you will receive a free credit report as well. When you contact the company make sure the proper address is on file for you.
Once you have spoken with them create an Identity Theft Report and go to the polic: See detailed instructions at this link: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0277-create-identity-theft-report
How to you keep your identity safe?
- Keep your important financial information in a locked fire and water proof box. This not only protects you from theft but also preserves the document in case of natural disaster. Alternatively you can rent a security deposit box at a bank to keep your identity safe.
- Do not carry your social security card, passport or other personal or financial information on your person that you do not need to. This way you will not loose them with a lost purse or wallet. Keep them in your locked box.
- Before you share information such as your social security number with a workplace, business, child’s school or doctor’s office, make sure they truly need the information and understand how they will store and use the information.
- Shred all recites, applications, insurance forms and any others documents that include personal or financial data. Theft can get vital data from your trash or recycling.
- Destroy prescription bottle labels before you dispose of them to protect your information.
- Do not give your health insurance information to anyone who offers you free medical care or products. If it is truly free they will not need such information.
- Do not leave mail in your mail box for long periods of time. If you go on vacation go to the post office and put a hold on your mail till you return.
- When you order checks do not have them delivered to your home unless your mailbox is secure, have them sent to the bank.
- Consider opting out of prescreened credit and insurance offers by mail. You can do so by calling 1-888-567-8688 or at www.optoutprescreen.com you have the choice of opting out for 5yrs or permanently. This will keep some personal data from ending up in our mail box.
- Do not give out personal information over the phone, through the mail or online unless you initiated the contact or you have verified the authenticity of the sender/caller. If you need to verify a sender or caller is from a financial institution you work with, call the number at the bottom of a statement. If you do not have an account with the company find their official site online and call the number provided never trust the link or number in the letter or email it’s self unless it can be verified.
- Wipe old computers and cell phones of all data before you dispose of them.
- Keep your internet browser secure and use encryption software. Protect your home wireless network; make sure it is private and secure. Do not use the stock password as they are easily guessed, they are sequential. Make sure you have anti-spyware and anti-virus software as well as a good firewall. Make sure you keep the software updated and current, if you do not update it you are not protected from new threats.
- Keep your passwords private; do not store them on your computer. Use a password manager if you can to keep your password safe and allow you to create more complex hard to break ones. Try to create long complex passwords that have numbers, symbols and upper and lowercase letters. Do not use things like your birthdate, children’s or spouse’s names or birthdates, pets names or other easily discernible names or dates. You may want to use a password generator because it is very difficult to create truly random passwords on your own.
- Be creative with your challenge questions. For example if the question is: What is your favorite sports team? You could put Patriots but that is fairly easy to guess. You want to think of something more creative but memorable to you. Perhaps spell it backwards or scramble the words.
- Be aware and careful of what you put out on social media. Make sure your privacy settings are properly set and understand that thieves can learn a lot about you form reading your social media, it can help them to guess and circumvent your passwords and security questions.
Identity Theft in the News, Stories and links:
Guides to protecting and repairing your identity:
Major FBI identity fraud case solved:
Victims Stories and advice: