The number of Identity Theft incidents in the U.S. has reached 9.9 million a year, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Every minute about 19 people fall victim to Identity Theft. It takes the average victim an estimated $500 and 30 hours to resolve each Identity Theft crime. Although in some cases, it can take thousands of dollars and over 330 hours to correct the situation. Worse yet, children are now increasingly becoming targets for Identity Theft, which is harder to detect and takes longer to resolve compared to adult ID Theft.
This article provides an overview of this costly consumer problem and is offered here for educational purposes. It focuses on steps that may help protect you or a member of your family from becoming a victim, including Online ID Theft and At Home ID Theft.
IDENTITY THEFT PROTECTION BEGINS WITH YOU
First and foremost, keep your information to yourself. Carry only the credit cards that you need in your wallet. Leave things like your social security card and spare cards in a safe and secure place.
Make a photocopy of or scan and store in your computer each of your credit cards, front and back, in case any are stolen. This will allow you to have the information needed to file reports with the credit card issuer and law enforcement.
Make sure your health or any other insurance card does not contain your social security number. If it does, call the company and have them remove it.
If your driver’s license number is your social security number, ask your state to update your number.
When shopping, keep your receipts.
If you’re paying with a check, do not allow a clerk write down your driver’s license number or social security number. If the clerk insists, talk to a manager.
Beware of ATMs from financial institutions with which you are not familiar.
Workplace theft is rampant, so lock up your valuables. Follow security procedures for workplace files and if your workplace does not have procedures in place, ask that they do.
Also beware of uninvited work computer access. Don’t log in to personal accounts from your work computer and don’t allow the computer to save personal passwords automatically.
ONLINE ID THEFT
Helping to protect your identity when using any device to access the Internet requires simple, but extremely important steps.
Make sure your passwords are secure. Do not use birthdays or the names of your children and be certain to include special characters (e.g., !@#$%). This goes for your user names as well.
Beware of phishing scams. These email or messaging scams direct you to websites which look almost identical to the legitimate sites. You may then be lured into providing sensitive information, such as social security numbers, user names and passwords, your address, and bank account information.
Your Internet connection security should always be enhanced by setting up a firewall and running antivirus software.
Since children are especially vulnerable, make certain your kids are educated about Identity Theft. Be absolutely sure they know to check with you first before giving out their social security number or any other sensitive information.
AT HOME ID THEFT
Some thieves specialize in stealing identities from the place you call home. This video details a number of things you may do to help prevent such an occurrence. It is provided for educational purposes only.
If possible, have a mailbox that has a lock on it.
Don’t have new checks sent to your mailbox, have them sent to your bank and pick them up when they arrive.
Use a shredder to get rid of mail with sensitive information.
Keep track of your bills. If you haven’t received a statement when expected, contact the company and ask for the billing to be resent.
When you receive your annual social security benefits statement, check it for errors and possible fraud.
Consider joining a credit monitoring service to keep an eye on drastic or sudden changes to your credit report and credit score.
Around your home, keep personal information under lock and key, especially if you have frequent guests.
Block your phone number from reverse directories.
To stop unsolicited credit card offers, call 888-5-opt-out (888-567-8688) and all 3 credit reporting companies will be notified.
To end telemarketing calls, access the Federal Trade Commission website at www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222 to opt out of permitting salespeople to contact you via any phone numbers you specify (including cell phones).
More Identity Theft information and other financial tips may be viewed in the SettleiTsoft® Knowledge Base.