Identity Theft (also known as identity fraud) is a type of crime where an individual uses someone else’s personal data to deceive. It is typically used for financial/economic gain. It’s more common than we would like to think. In fact, in a recent story on NBC News, it cites a study that says 1 in 5 Americans identifies themselves as a victim of identity theft or fraud. The researchers of the study estimate that means this crime has hit 44 million people. That number is eye-opening, or it should be. So what can you do to protect yourself from such theft?
1. Know the common types of identity theft: There are multiple ways people can steal your identity. First, they can watch you from a nearby location (also called shoulder surfing). They can listen in on calls where you give out personal information. Another type of identity theft that can occur is stealing your information off of pre-approvals from credit cards that you discard in the mail without shredding, or use email “spam”. They can also use computer technology to steal large amounts of personal information.
2. Take steps to protect personal information: Taking advice from USA.gov, you should protect your information. For example, only give your social security number out when completely necessary. See the complete list on their website located here: https://www.usa.gov/identity-theft
3. Sign up for free credit reports using annualcreditreport.com or creditkarma.com. Also, sign up for alerts to changes in your credit reports through these companies.
First and foremost, stay on top of your credit and bank accounts. Be sure to watch for changes that don’t seem normal. You can get your credit information for free via websites like www.creditkarma.com now. If you notice changes that aren’t normal, take action immediately.
1. Contact your bank and your credit card companies. Check for a fraud department and inform them of the problem. Make sure to close and freeze accounts. Also, change any logins or passwords associated with any of your financial accounts. If there are PIN numbers associated with any of your financial accounts request they be changed as well.
2. Alert all of the major credit report companies to the fraud. Here is the contact information for each of the main credit reporting companies:
3. Report the fraud to the police.
4. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission. You can go to their website IdentityTheft.gov or call 1-877-438-4338.
If you need advice on this topic you can contact the team at David Mills CPA in Morton, IL. We are here to help the Peoria area including Washington, Morton, Germantown Hills, East Peoria and the rest of Central Illinois with all their financial concerns. Identity theft is a growing problem in our country. It’s important to stay on top of your own financial situation to be aware of identity theft the moment it happens.