3 Steps to Avoid Identity Theft
Identity theft is one of the most frequent types of consumer fraud. In fact, it can happen to anyone. Approximately 1 in 15 Americans becomes a victim of identity theft every year, so the chance that this will happen to someone in your family every few years is high!
What can you do to decrease your odds and keep your money safe? Being vigilant in several parts of your everyday life can help.
Step One - Physical Security
If a criminal steals your purse or wallet, then they are likely to get your driver’s license, address, credit cards and everything else that they need to commit identity theft. The cost of identity theft can be a lot more than what you paid for that purse or wallet. This happened to my wife in a movie theater a few years ago (remember when people went to movies?). After stealing a purse from under her seat in the theater, the criminal charged over $1,000 at the Apple Store within two days.
Step Two - Phone Security
Phone scams are another big source of identity theft. Scammers often call trying to get victims to send them money, but phone scammers are also trying to steal personal information to commit identity theft. For example, scammers will impersonate the Social Security Administration and call to steal your Social Security number. It is easy for scammers to spoof a phone number and trick you and your caller ID into thinking it is an official call. Use a call blocker such as Nomorobo to decrease these calls and don’t give out your personal information to unsolicited callers.
Step Three - Email Security
Phishing scams are the most common type of email fraud. Phishing occurs when someone sends you a fraudulent email request allegedly from a legitimate company. For example, Amazon or Apple sends you an email because there is something wrong with your account. Bank of America or Wells Fargo send you an email because they need to verify that someone has not been stealing your money. These emails usually contain a link to a website designed to steal your information or sometimes to apply a virus to your computer. To better recognize phishing schemes, you can take the free Google Phishing Quiz at Take Jigsaw's Phishing Quiz.
What Actions Should You Take If Identity Theft Happens to You
If you are a victim, then there are several steps you can take to minimize the damage. First, don’t panic. Many people who are victims of identity theft are able to get fraudulent charges dismissed. Actions you should take include:
Contacting any businesses where fraud was attempted: stores, banks, credit cards, service providers, employers, etc.
Requesting a fraud alert or freeze on your credit with credit agencies to minimize the chance of someone opening a new account in your name.
Checking your credit report and monitoring your financial accounts closely for false charges.
Reporting the crime to your local law enforcement authorities.
By visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s website identitytheft.gov, you can receive a personalized plan from the FTC to help track your identity theft recovery.
Guide Change understands that identity theft can happen to anyone, and unfortunately the amount of losses per incident only increases with age (learn the red flags of elder fraud). Remaining vigilant will help keep you secure, and knowing the next steps if you become a victim can minimize any losses that you may incur. Check back to this blog periodically to learn about any updates in preventative step you can take.
If you have any questions or would like any assistance from Guide Change, please do not hesitate to contact us.