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Identity theft is on the rise. It is essential that you protect your identity (even if you think you have nothing worth stealing). Once they have your information, they can take over your financial accounts, obtain medical treatment and file fraudulent tax returns. You then could be turned down for apartment rentals, credit cards, loans and possibly even a job. By taking proper precautions, becoming a victim of identity theft can be greatly reduced.
It is important to be aware of how a thief can access your information to protect it. Some common ways are:
Some ways an identity thief can use your name and information:
Therefore, it is important to:
Here are some clues that someone has stolen your information:
If your wallet, Social Security number, or other personal information is lost or stolen, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself from identity theft.
According to IdentityTheft.gov, if someone is using your personal information to open new accounts, make purchases or get a tax refund you should:
Step 1: Call the companies where you know fraud occurred, explain that someone stole your identity, ask them to close or freeze your accounts then change your logins, passwords, and PINS for your accounts.
Step 2: Place a fraud alert. A fraud alert is free and will make it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. To do so, contact one of the three credit bureaus (the one company must tell the other two). You will receive a letter from each credit bureau confirming a fraud alert has been placed on your file.
Step 3: Get your credit report. Contact Annual Credit Report (1-877-322-8228) or one of the three credit bureaus directly.
Step 4: Report identity theft to The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) where students can notify the government of the crime. The FTC does not have criminal jurisdiction, but it supports the criminal investigation and prosecution through its Identity Theft Data Clearinghouse — the nation's repository for identity theft complaints.
Step 5: File a report with your local police department.
For more detailed information and next steps visit IdentityTheft.gov. IdentityTheft.gov is the federal government's one-stop resource for identity theft victims. The site provides streamlined checklists and sample letters to guide you through the recovery process.