Every two seconds, someone becomes a victim of identity theft. That means, that by the time you finish reading this sentence, another person has fallen victim to identity theft. Your best defense starts with educating yourself about the threat.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is a widespread crime that’s continually evolving with technology and trends. There are a variety of schemes to get hold of your personal information and use it to steal your money, sell your identity, commit fraud or commit other crimes in your name.
Types of identity theft attacks:
Identity thieves use numerous ways to steal your information-both high and low tech. With the constant evolution of technology, the methods used to steal data are changing at warp speed. These are the most common types of identity theft:
It’s exactly as it sounds. Thieves will go through your trash looking for bills, receipts and other documents containing your personal information.
Phishing, Vishing & Smishing
Identity thieves will email (phishing), call (vishing) or text (smishing) you pretending to be someone else (e.g. a bank, potential employer or other institution your trust) and request that you provide more information. They may even replicate a popular website hoping to trick you into filling out an online form.
When an organization such as a bank, retailer or doctor’s office gets hacked, the damage is often widespread impacting hundreds or thousands of customers. Hackers may use stolen information for identity fraud, or they may simply sell it on black market websites for other criminals to purchase and use. Many people affected by data breaches don’t even know they’re victims until several years after the event occurred.
Warning signs that your identity may have been stolen:
• Errors on your bank, credit card or other account statements
• Errors on the explanation of medical benefits from your health plan
• Your regular bills and account statements don’t arrive on time
• Calls from debt collectors about debts or over due payments that don’t belong to you
• A notice from the IRS that someone used your Social Security Number
• Mail, email or calls about accounts or jobs in your minor child’s name
• Unwarranted collection notices of your credit report
• You are turned down unexpectedly for a loan or job due to bad credit
How to protect yourself from identity theft:
Buy a cross-cut shredder and make sure you shred any documents containing personal information before you toss them in the dumpster.
Be sure to password protect all of your devices, and use unique, complicated passwords for your online accounts.
Never log in to financial accounts or shop online while using public Wi-Fi, and make sure to encrypt and password protect your Wi-Fi at home.
Review your credit reports and bank accounts periodically looking for suspicious activity and errors that could signify identity theft.
You have a right to free credit report every 12 months from each of the national credit reporting companies. Order all three reports at once, or order one report every four months. For more information or to order your free credit reports check out: www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.
Consider purchasing an identity theft detection product that includes identity theft restoration. If you do become a victim of identity theft, you’ll be notified quickly and be able to lean on certified specialists to help restore your identity.
What to do if you become a victim of an identity thief:
When an identity thief steals and uses your personal information for financial or personal gain, it can feel violating, devastating and confusing. You can recover, but you must be patient and meticulous.
The first thing you should do is contact any affected entity. For example, if an identity thief hacked into your bank account, contact your bank immediately. Government agencies should also be notified. If a thief has your Social Security number, you should notify the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service.
In order to investigate a case, many organizations will require you to file a police report and an identity theft affidavit. The affidavit can be found at the Federal Trade Commission’s website, and it only takes a few minutes to fill out. To file a police report, simply head to your local police station with your affidavit in hand and explain the situation.
The second step is to protect your credit. Order and review your credit reports looking for information you do not recognize. If you see fraudulent activity, you should file a dispute with the credit bureaus. If you believe a thief is opening credit in your name, you might want to consider a fraud alert or credit freeze.
A fraud alert is a red flag on your credit file. If someone applies for a loan in your name and a lender pulls your file, the lender will be notified of the fraud alert. A credit freeze actually prevents any lender from accessing your file. Both types of protection can help keep thieves from opening new lines of credit in your name, but they come with downsides. A fraud alert does not prevent a lender from approving a credit application, and a credit freeze prevents all credit approvals-even if you’re the one applying.
Finally, it’s important to continue to periodically review your credit reports and other accounts containing personal information. Once identity thieves have your personal information, they have it forever. They can continue to commit fraud in your name and come up with new ways to use your personal information. You could see the impact even years after the initial theft occurred. Because of the persistent monitoring required to stay protected, subscribing to an identity theft monitoring service may be a safer and easier option.
If you are concerned that you may have fallen victim to identity fraud, please feel free to contact our team at (239) 433-5554, so that we can help you navigate through the recovery process.
1. Javelin Strategy & Research. “A New Identity Fraud Victim Every Two Seconds in 2013 According to Latest Javelin Strategy & Research Study.” February 2014 Press Release.