What Can You Do to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft?
It seems like everywhere I go and many of the people I speak with are mentioning the fact that they have had to request new credit cards, because someone, not authorized, has been using their card…their card has been compromised. This is a form of identity theft, and not only can it be costly, but it’s a huge inconvenience!
The Javelin Strategy & Research Company is a research-based advisory firm that did a study on identity fraud and discovered there were 15.4 million victims in 2016, which is an increase in victims of about 16%, who, in combination, lost about $16 billion. While fraud from credit cards that were not present saw an increase of 40%.
Types of Identity Theft
- Medical Identity Theft – The most dangerous and hardest to fix type of Identity theft, simply put, is when someone falsely uses someone else’s identity information to make false medical claims for services and goods. The really hard to fix problem is that the fictitiously created information can find it’s way into your records causing all kinds of misinformation and confusion. This type of fraud can also create insurance nightmares.
- Driver’s License Identity Theft – This is the easiest type of theft to commit, and begins with your wallet or purse, containing your driver’s license, gets lost or stolen. Your driver’s license or other types of ID can be sold to someone who looks like you.
- Financial Identity Theft – This occurs when there is a data breach such as the one Target experienced a couple years ago, the identity thieves get access to bank accounts and other financial information.
- Insurance Identity Theft – One of the newer types of identity theft, it can be a major concern if you have had a medical identity theft.
- Criminal Identity Theft – This occurs when someone who has stolen your identity, then commits a criminal act while using your identity. This could cause warrants being issued for your arrest.
- Synthetic Identity Theft – Rather than just using the information from one victim, the thief combines information from several victims.
- Child Identity Theft – Typically committed by someone who the victims know and trust, and use the stolen identity to commit most all of the types of theft above.
- Social Security Identity Theft – Thieves working with Social Security numbers can, through manipulation, avoid paying several types of taxes. You’ll know you’re a victim if the IRS sends you a bill for any unpaid taxes.
How can you protect your identity?
- Beware on social media sites…too many people share too much information, and there are trolls out in cyberspace watching for opportunities. Many people try to see “how many friends” they can get…don’t accept a “friend” you don’t know. Check your privacy settings to make sure only those you want to can see what you’re putting out there.
- Create and use strong passwords; there are programs out there that will help you create and store encrypted, safe and strong passwords.
- Keep anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer and keep it up to date.
- Beware of phishing scams and messages that pop up on the screen saying your computer has been infected, and to call them now because they are the only ones who can fix your computer for you.
- Monitor your bank accounts, your credit reports and your credit card statements.
- Don’t just throw away documents with sensitive information on them…shred them! Thieves look for things like, credit card applications (even the credit card offers), bank or credit card statements, bills and any other paperwork that has your personal information on it.
- Only give out your Social Security number when it’s absolutely necessary.
- Don’t leave your mail sitting in your mailbox and when you are going away for awhile, have the post office hold your mail until you return.
If you find yourself a victim of identity theft, report it to the Federal Trade Commission by phone, 1-877-438-4338 or online at: IdentityTheft.gov