Published: March, 2020
With the advancement and ever present usage of technology, identity theft is on the rise. Take steps to avoid becoming a victim.
Identity theft occurs when an individual steals your identity by using your personal identifying information, such as your name, Social Security number, or debit or credit cards with the intent of committing fraud or other crimes. Use this information for knowledge and planning, so you can prevent becoming a victim to identity theft.
TYPES OF IDENTITY THEFTThieves use a variety of methods to get access to personal information. People are getting hurt today, because they’re revealing too much information online. Learn safe social networking tips and understand the various methods of identity theft, so you will be able to use caution and be aware of how to properly dispose of any information.
Dumpster Diving: Dumpster diving is a common method used by thieves, as they simply go through dumpsters of garbage in search of any paperwork and/or bills that will provide personal information. To prevent a thief from obtaining your information by digging through dumpsters, consider shredding all bills and other paperwork that has personal information on it.
Skimming: Through a method called skimming, thieves use devices to pull information from the magnetic strip on the back of credit or debit cards. A skimmer device is typically located very close or over the ATM card reader or any other device where cards are processed such as a gas station pump. Thieves use plaster and plastic to conceal the device, making it look part of the manufacturer’s design. Small cameras are also used to capture users’ PINS. To help prevent skimming, be observant of the ATM or other card processing centers. If you notice tape residue, report this immediately to the institution or business, as many thieves use double-sided adhesives when placing skimming devices. Also, consider using your hand to shield your PIN number and practice debit card and ATM safety tips.
Phishing: Through a method called phishing, thieves use email, text messaging, and pop-up messaging to pose as financial institutions or other businesses in order to trick you into revealing your personal information. To prevent phishing, delete any emails, text messages, or pop-up messages you receive asking you to confirm or provide personal information, such as account numbers, Social Security number, or passwords. Legitimate companies do not ask for personal information over these types of platforms. If you are concerned about your account, be sure to contact the business by looking up their number on financial statements or on the back of your credit card.
Pretexting: Pretexting is a method used by thieves, who pose as a business or financial institution to get you to reveal your personal information. These thieves may then sell your information to people who may use it to steal your identity. To prevent pretexting, be cautious when giving out any personal information to a caller over the phone, such as your address, birthday, account numbers, or social security number. Always be aware of the situation at hand, and if anything is out of the ordinary or you suspect uncommon activity, be sure to contact the business or financial institution immediately.
Changing Your Address: Identity thieves use a simple method of changing your address by completing a change of address form to collect your personal information. Billing statements and other letters including personal information are diverted to the new address. To prevent this method, be observant of missing bills or letters you are expecting. If you notice that certain bills are not arriving as they typically do, immediately contact the postal service in your area or the billing institution.
Stealing: While identity thieves are becoming more sophisticated with their methods of stealing identities, many thieves still use the old-fashion method of stealing. By stealing purses, wallets and mail, thieves can obtain access to your debit and credit cards, pre-approved credit offers, billing statements, and other personal information. If you notice that your wallet or purse is missing or you notice that expected mail is not arriving, immediately report this to the authorities.
Child Identity Theft:
Unfortunately, children can also become victims of identity theft. Just as thieves may use adult identities to open new accounts, apply for loans or rent a place to live, they can also do this with your child’s identity. It is vital that you protect your child’s information, just as you protect your own.
Know the Warning Signs. One of the main ways to observe if your child is a victim of identity theft is to check to see if they have a credit report. If they do, you should contact the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian immediately. You can request a manual search of your child’s file, which they will search based on your child’s name and Social Security number. The credit bureau may request copies of identification documents before completing the search.
You may also realize your child’s identity has been stolen for other reasons such as receiving a notification from the IRS that your child’s Social Security number has been used on another tax return or receiving calls or bills from products that were not ordered. If you suspect your child’s identity has been stolen, you should contact the police immediately.
Protect Your Child’s Information:
- Don’t share your child’s information. Only share your child’s information with trusted parties such as your family’s medical institution or child’s school and consider inquiring how the shared information will be protected.
- Protect your child’s information at home. Consider shredding documents with your child’s personal information on it before throwing away. Also, store identification documents such as birth certificate and social security card in a protected location in your home, such as a safe.
- Know your rights. Under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), parents have the right to not allow their child’s information to be shared with other third parties, including other families. Parents also have the right to verify that records are kept in a safe place and know how their child’s information will be used, shared, and protected.
For more information on Child Identity Theft, visit www.identitytheft.gov, the federal government’s website to help you be safe, secure and responsible online.
Report Identity Theft Immediately
Many individuals realize their identity has been stolen by noticing inaccuracies appearing on their monthly bank and/or credit card statements or credit report. If you suspect you may be a victim of identity theft, you should:
- Immediately contact the police and file a police report. You may need to file a police report specific to identity theft, called an Identity Theft Report.
- Contact one of the three credit bureaus that can assist in placing a fraud alert on your credit report. Whichever bureau you contact must report it to the other two:
A fraud alert is free. It will make it harder for someone to open new accounts in your name. You will receive a letter from each credit bureau to confirm they placed a fraud alert on your file.
- Additionally, the FTC provides great resources to learn more about identity theft and how to protect yourself.
- FTC | www.IdentityTheft.gov | 1.877.IDTHEFT
Recovery After Identity Theft
Unfortunately, it is common for victims of identity theft not to realize they are a victim until the damage has occurred. Therefore, depending on the extent of the damage, recovering from identity theft may be a long process. But with the right guidance, you can restore your financial future.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports. By placing a fraud alert on your credit report, you can prevent thieves from conducting further damage. You should contact the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, to request a fraud alert be placed on your report. Note that you only have to contact one of the three bureaus, due to them legally having to communicate the fraud alert to the other two. However, be sure to get confirmation from all three credit bureaus of the change. If not, be sure to contact all three directly. Analyze your credit report for any other inaccuracies that might appear as a result of the identity theft. If any inaccuracies do appear, report them to the credit bureau. Continue to monitor your reports overtime to make sure no other fraudulent activity occurs.
- Close all tampered or falsely opened accounts. Consider closing all accounts that were tampered with or that were falsely opened. Contact each company and ask to speak with the security or fraud department. Make sure to follow-up with a written letter and copies of supporting documents. Consider sending the letters as certified mail with a return receipt requested, so that you have confirmation that the company received your letter.
- Complete a FTC ID Theft Complaint. Consider completing a FTC ID Theft Complaint, as it can be used in conjunction with your police report to grant you certain protections. Also, the complaint can be used by the authorities to help investigate identity thieves and stop this crime. In addition, they can investigate companies that do not comply with enforced laws.