According to the Federal Trade Commission, 9 million Americans suffer identity theft annually. We’ve compiled a brief list of safeguards that we welcome you to share with your clients.
Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information and uses it to commit fraud- whether it’s using your credit card, filing fraudulent tax returns or ruining your credit. Perhaps the worst part about identity theft is that it can plague you for years, as criminals are able to continuously exploit your sensitive information. While credit card numbers can be changed easily- your social security number, date of birth and medical records cannot.
How do you defend yourself from identity theft?
- Pay for online purchases with a credit card. Banks almost always favor the consumer in these situations and will refund your money. But once the money’s gone from your debit account- it’s gone. (This also holds true for physically stolen cards, FYI.)
- Clear your logins and passwords and never save these credentials on a public computer.
- Monitor your bank statements. If you don’t recognize a purchase, if it looks suspicious or if occurred somewhere you weren’t, call your bank.
- Monitor your credit report. You are legally entitled to a free report every year from each of the three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion)
- Shred sensitive documents.
- Fraud alerts and credit freezes. These are two measures you can take yourself, or you can pay a company to do it for you.
- If you’ve detected fraudulent activity, notify the financial institution where it occurred, so they can freeze your account. You might also need to contact the FTC and local police department.