Incidents of identity theft have continued to grow both nationwide and globally. According to JavelineStrategy.com, “fraudsters have stolen $112 billion in the past six years [or] $35,600 … per minute”.
Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal or financial information and uses it without your permission. Thieves can then drain your bank accounts, ruin your credit reputation, apply for loans and jobs and even commit crimes using your information. With the average loss of over $1500 per victim, it’s imperative to be vigilant at all times. To protect yourself and your family, AVOID the following situations.
- Do nothing if your purse or wallet is stolen. – This is one of the easiest and most popular ways identity thieves get a hold of driver’s licenses, credit cards, etc. If your purse or wallet is stolen, file a police report immediately, contact your banks and credit card issuers, and contact the three major credit reporting agencies – – Transunion, Equifax, and Experian – to place a fraud alert on all your account.
- Give out personal or financial information over the telephone– If you receive any unsolicited call requesting personal or financial information, simply state that you do not do business over the telephone. Request that information be sent to you via mail. If the caller is reluctant to do this or pushes you to commit on the telephone, hang up.
- Keep your financial information in an email, on your computer, or in an online store database. – If your computer is infected or hacked or the website with your stored information experiences a data breach; your identity could end up in the wrong hands. Store this information in a secure place – offline and outside of your computer.
- Leave outgoing mail in an unsecured mailbox for pick up by the post office. – The convenience of putting mail in your mailbox for pick up is often overridden by the risk of identity theft. Best practice: Drop your mail in a USPS Mail Drop Box or take it directly to the post office.
- Do your personal banking or make credit card purchases using public Wi-Fi. – Public Wi-Fi is a scammers dream. It is very easy to obtain personal information from unsuspecting users. Always use secure, private Wi-Fi connections.
- Just throw away unshredded mail, financial statements and personal documents – Although it is low-tech and old-school, dumpster diving is still a lucrative method for scammers to acquire a lot of information. Always shred documents with personal and financial information.
If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, go to Idtheft.gov, sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This site will walk you through all the steps that you need to take to recover and safeguard your identity.
For more Identity Theft Statistics, check out 2016 Identity Fraud: Fraud Hits an Inflection Point. To report a scam, go to the BBB Scam Tracker. To find trustworthy businesses, go to bbb.org.