Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

In 2013 over 11.5 million people suffered from identity theft costing them about $21 billion in financial losses. Aside from the financial losses these innocent people face, the emotional toll can be burdemsome as well.

Some ways you can take control of your identity and prevent cyber-hackers from obtaining personal information include:

1. Shredding personal documents. Any documents that have personal information on them should not be thrown directly into the trash. Shred documents such as bank statements, payroll receipts, and insurance forms. All of these documents contain information that can facilitate someone stealing your identity.

2. Guard your social security number. Keep your social security card at home, in a safe location. Unless absolutely necessary, avoid providing this number on forms or in person.

3. Don't provide personal information on the phone or online. Someone calling asking for your social security number or personal information is an immediate red flag. Unless you are positive you are dealing with a safe network, do not provide personal information.

4.Set difficult passwords. Make sure your passwords are not easily predictable and include both numbers, and upper- and lower-case letters. The more predicable your password, the easier it will be for cyber-hackers to login in and steal your personal information.

5. Never click links sent to unsolicited emails. Ensure that your privacy settings on your computer are turned on and use website addresses you know, rather than links in unsolicited emails.

Ways to detect identity theft and minimize losses include:

1. Act quickly. If you notice anomolies in your credit reports, or have received abnormal phone calls from banks or loan authorities ask questions and respond immediately.

2. Monitor your credit. Utilize free security services that will provide alerts when abnormal credit card activity takes place. If there is abnormal activity on your card, cancel the card immediately and report the fraud to the credit card company.

3. File a police report. This step will provide proof that fraud did occur, ensuring the credit card companies adhere to their fraud protection plans, and don't hold you accountable for the fraudulent charges.

4. Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. The Federal Trade Commission uses your information to help in their search for the perpetrators of these crimes, and to prevent identify theft in the future.

Identity theft is something that is difficult to prevent, but diligently monitoring and protecting your personal information is the best step you can take to avoid falling victim to this crime in the future.

 

"Statistic Brain." Identity Theft/Fraud Statistics. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 May 2014. . 

Federal Trade Commission, comp. AVOID Theft. Washington D.C.: Consumer Response Center, 2010. Print.