It is very likely that you or someone you know has received a notification that personal information may have been accessed by someone who was not authorized to have the information. As we are required to give more organizations personal information like a social security number, credit card, and/or birth date, it becomes increasingly easy for your information to be stolen.
Identify theft is the use of another person’s information, such as a name, social security number, credit card, or access code, for the purpose of getting money, property, or something else of value. Most people agree that identity theft has quickly become the biggest criminal activity, and internet sites are full of information, scams, and examples. In just one example, going back only to 2005, “According to a Federal Trade Commission survey “8.3 million American adults, or 3.7 percent of all American adults, were victims of identity theft ”.
And it keeps getting bigger. In 2011, “The Internal Revenue Service may have delivered more than $5 billion in refund checks to identity thieves who filed fraudulent tax returns for 2011”, via The Huffington Post.
And bigger. In 2013, “Identify theft is expected to surpass traditional theft as the leading form of property crime”, from USA Today.
Here are three easy ways to protect your identity and your credit standing from identity theft by Deter, Detect and Defend.
- Shred financial documents you throw away;
- Control access to your social security number; do not carry it or list it on your checks; give it out only if absolutely necessary;
- Offer to use a different form of identification instead of your social security number;
- Do not respond to phone callers who ask for personal information unless you recognize the person’s voice;
- Do not open an email from unknown sources, and do not click on links in emails sent to you;
- Avoid easy to guess passwords, such as names, addresses, birthdays;
- Keep personal information in a safe and secure place so others may not gain access.
- If expected bills do not arrive;
- You are denied credit for unknown reasons;
- You receive collection calls on unknown accounts;
- Regularly check a free copy of your credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com each year.
- Defend yourself immediately:
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report through the credit bureaus;
- Close accounts that have been compromised;
- File a police report if possible;
- Report your problem to the FTC at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.