With the increase of readily available personal information, Identity Theft is rapidly increasing and continues to affect more people every year. It is almost impossible to completely prevent Identity Theft; however, there are ways you can make yourself a more difficult target and less susceptible to having your identity compromised. Here are some of the ways to minimize your risk of becoming a victim:
Protect your Social Security Number
Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Keep your Social Security card in a safe and secure place.
Try to avoid giving your Social Security number to anyone unless absolutely necessary. Seek other proofs of identification when necessary.
Treat your mail and trash carefully
Identity thieves commonly pick through trash or recycling bins to capture personal information. Always shred your important paperwork like charge receipts, checks and bank statements you are discarding. Don’t forget those credit card offers commonly received in the mail, as well.
To opt out of receiving pre-screened offers of credit in the mail, call: 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688). You will be asked to provide your Social Security number which the consumer reporting companies need to associate you with your file.
Place outgoing mail in a post office collection box or at a local post office, rather than putting the flag up on your unsecured home mailbox. Also, promptly remove mail from your mailbox.
Internet Fraud/Phishing Scams
Internet identity thieves will impersonate a trusted business in an attempt to trick you into giving out your personal information.
This is called “phishing,” and used by these criminals to get your personal information and steal your identity.
Never reply to an email, text or message that asks for your personal information. Your bank or business already has your information and will never ask for it or ask you to confirm the information with them.
Closely Monitor All Your Bank Accounts
Monitor/check all bank accounts daily for fraudulent activity. The sooner you detect suspicious activity on your account immediately notify your financial institution and credit bureaus.
Work with your financial institution and inform them when you may be going out of town or on vacation. Most financial institutions will be alerted when transactions occur outside the normal spending area of the account holder. Therefore, to avoid a fraud alert, inform your financial institution if your credit card will be used outside your home area.
These are the most common ways identity theft occurs, so what can you do to determine if you are a victim or your personal information has been compromised?
Early detection of identity theft can make a significant difference in minimizing the amount of loss and/or possibly identifying a suspect.
Be observant of any suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial statements and billing records for charges you did not make.
Credit reports contain your personal information, including what accounts you have and how you pay your bills. Florida law requires each of the three major consumer reporting agencies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. If fraudulent accounts are being opened in your name, these accounts are likely to show up on your credit report.
To order your free annual report from one or all the national consumer reporting companies, visit www.annualcreditreport.com; or call toll-free 877-322-8228.
If you determined your identity and personal information has been used by someone else, what should you do?
1. Obtain all applicable documentation, such as a copy of the bill, check, credit report or any other documents that support your personal information has been used by someone else.
2. Contact the issuing business or financial institution where your identity was used to close accounts or credit cards and obtain additional information.
3. Report the identity theft to the three main credit bureaus (Experian, Trans Union and Equifax) and place a fraud alert with the credit bureaus.
4. Attempt to identify the specific location where your personal information was used. This is important in determining in what jurisdiction the actual crime was committed.
Report the crime to the law enforcement agency where the crime occurred, or if unknown, the agency where you live.