In the United States, most individuals are identified with a driver’s license and social security number. From credit card account numbers to debit card account numbers and PINs, the average person has a lot of information that separates him or her from others, and makes them vulnerable to theft and fraud.
Identity theft has become a prolific problem. The identities of the deceased are being used by thieves, thanks to information published online. Even very young children are not safe from identity theft, and in fact they may be even more vulnerable since it doesn’t occur to most people to monitor credit activity on the social security number of a young child.
Identity thieves obtain information from a variety of sources; stolen wallets or purses, trash cans, and high-tech methods such as computer hacking and skimming information with special devices. They may help themselves to bank and credit cards statements, credit card offers, and tax information that may be in your mailbox or trash can. They may file a change of address form in your name to have all your mail sent to another location, or even use a device to read information from magnetic-stripped cards while they are still in your wallet.
Thieves can assume your identity and commit many types of crimes. Studies show that only about 17% of identity theft is detectable on a credit report. Other types of theft include phone or utilities fraud, bank fraud, employment-related fraud, and fraud by using your personal information while committing a crime, filing tax returns or seeking medical care.
Here are a few tips to prevent becoming a victim of identity theft:
- Limit the number of credit cards you carry in your wallet, and leave passports and social security cards in a secure place.
- Consider using a post office box if you’re concerned about mail theft.
- Shred all papers containing personal information.
- Always identify an individual before giving out personal information via phone, email or text messages. Most financial institutions will not ask for information over email or telephone. Also, even if the person is reputable, keep in mind that data can be intercepted over phone lines or over digital channels if they’re not secure.
- Watch your credit card as much as possible when it is taken out of your sight (such as at restaurants) to be swiped. Routinely check your statements for unauthorized charges and take immediate action if you see this type of activity occurring.
Anyone who has been the victim of identity theft can attest that it is not something that is resolved quickly. In fact, it can take many years and tens of thousands of dollars to even attempt to repair the damage and restore your good name.
Contact me today, to learn more about programs that monitor for fraudulent activity and provide complete restoration services if identity theft happens to you.