Let’s face it. Identity theft has become a huge problem. For everyone. At every age. And at every income level.
Over 16.7 million people were victims of identity theft in 2017. And fraud losses related to identity theft were $16 billion dollars.
In this post, we will answer your questions about identify theft. We will also give you tips and resources to protect yourself from identity theft.
Keep reading to find answers to the following questions:
- What is identity theft?
- Common ways identity thieves steal information.
- What do identity thieves do with your information?
- Recognizing identity theft. Red Flags you need to watch out for.
- What should you do if you think your identity has been stolen?
- What is your financial responsibility if your identity is stolen?
- 15 tips to safeguard your personal information and protect yourself from identity theft.
1- What is Identity Theft?
The United States Department of Justice defines identity theft in the following way. “Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.”
Identity theft has become such a problem in the United States that it is a federal crime.
Punishable by two years in prison. Identify theft that is related to terrorism can carry a five year prison sentence.
2- Common Ways Your Identity Can be Stolen
A common technique used by identity thieves is called “skimming”.
Thieves place small devices known as “skimmers” on ATM machines, gas pumps or any machine where you can swipe to pay.
While the ATM is processing your transaction, the skimmer has read and stored your information.
Your waiter, waitress or cashier at any establishment could be operating a skimmer.
Stealing customer information and selling it on the dark web. Or using your information themselves.
Fraudsters use an email technique called “Phishing” to steal personal information.
Emails are sent from what appears to be your bank, credit card or some other well known company requesting personal information or passwords.
These messages look official and use well known company names and logos.
Phishers typically use some sort of threat or consequence for failing to take action.
The threat scares people into providing information.
This may be something like “Failure to respond to this email within three business days will result in the termination of your account.”
A link provided in the email then directs you to a fraudulent web page.
Once you arrive at the page you are asked to provide information to verify your identity. Like your account number and personal identification number.
And bam! Your identity has been stolen.
Phishing – It’s not just for email
While email is the most common form of phishing. Thieves also use instant messaging, cell phone text messaging, chat rooms, fake job search sites. Even fake pop-up boxes.
3 – What do identity thieves do with your information?
Use your credit.
Identity thieves use your personal information to apply for credit cards or even personal loans and mortgages.
Identity thieves can run up your credit cards in minutes. Apply for new credit or even buy property.
Steal money from your bank accounts.
In the blink of an eye. The identity thief can drain your bank account.
They write fraudulent checks, use your debit card and even send wires.
Apply for healthcare.
Yes, they apply for health care or have medical services using your name and information.
They use your Social Security Number
They can use your social security number to steal your tax return.
Sell your personal information
Identity thieves can sell your information to other fraudsters on the dark web.
4- Recognizing identity theft – Red Flags
Keep an eye out for correspondence with generic greetings. If a message from your bank starts with “Dear Customer”. Beware. Your bank, or anyone you have a relationship with should know your name. And use your name.
Look for miss spellings and poor grammar in written communications. Most financial institutions have lawyers that perform multiple reviews of customer communications. Typos can happen but they are usually the exception and not the rule.
Suspicious Links – links that are longer than you would expect. Links that have strange characters or are miss spelled. Never click on a link. Always type the business’ URL into your browser.
Requests for personal information like account numbers, personal identification codes and passwords. Your credit card company is going to know what your account number is and will authenticate a customer with other information. Like your address, the last transaction or your account or other data.
Suspicious Phone Calls – Phone calls from the IRS requesting personal information over the phone or from debt collectors where you do not have accounts could be signs that your identity may have been stolen.
Tax Returns/Refunds not received. If you don’t receive your tax refund when you expect it. That could be sign of identity theft. Or the IRS notifies you that you have filed multiple returns.
The company you work for is a victim of hacking.
Accounts you didn’t open or hard inquiries you did not authorize are on your credit report.
You find you have an arrest warrants you were not unaware of.
There are strange charges on your accounts.
You receive medical bills for treatments you did not receive
Your medical insurance company rejects legitimate medical expenses because their records indicate you have reached your maximum benefit amount.
You are denied credit.
A healthcare plan will not offer you coverage because your medical records show a condition that you do not have.
Missing Mail. Make sure you receive all of your statements each month.
Your Social Media passwords don’t work any longer.
5 – What should you do if you think your identity has been stolen?
- Notify your local police department and file a police report.
- Contact any bank, lending or financial institution where you have an account.
- Consider placing a fraud alert or credit freeze with each of the credit bureaus. Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
- Contact the The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They can be notified at the following links:
- Federal Trade Commission
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Change the password on the account that was stolen and any other account where you use the same password
- Review your credit report for any unauthorized accounts.
- Contact the fraud department of any company that has issued an unauthorized account in your name.
- Dispute any unauthorized accounts with the credit bureaus.
6 – What is your financial responsibility if your identity is stolen?
Credit Cards – If fraudulent charges are made using your credit card number only and not the physical card you won’t be responsible for any of the fraudulent charges.
If your purse or wallet is stolen you need to report the theft to the credit card company as quickly as possible.
If the thief uses your credit card before the theft is reported you could be responsible for up to $50.
Debit Cards are different. If you report the theft of the card within two days the maximum liability is $50.
If you wait more than two days to report the theft you could be responsible for up to $500.
7. 15 tips to safeguard your personal information and protect yourself from identity theft.
- Don’t carry your social security card with you. Store it in a safe place at home.
- Don’t write your social security number down on any forms other than a credit application
- Pick checks up at the bank’s branch. Don’t have them delivered via mail to your home
- Never leave your wallet or purse unattended
- Don’t give your social security number to strangers who call, text or email.
- Don’t post your date of birth, mother’s maiden name, pet or children’s names on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media accounts.
- If your bank offers suspicious activity alerts, sign up for them
- Store financial account statement, medical records and other important documents at home in a safe place.
- Request electronic statements from your bank and credit card issuers.
- . Protect your phone. Lock the screen. Use an app like Find My Phone that allows your to erase data remotely.
- . Shop online with caution. Use well known merchants.
- Use secure connections when shopping online. Stay away from free wifi when making purchases.
- Check your account statements every month for accuracy
- Check your credit report annually (at a minimum)
- Use strong passwords and mix them up. Don’t use the same password for everything.
Protect Yourself From Identity Theft – Recap
Now you know what identity thieves do with your information. How they can get your information. Red flags that may indicate your identity has been stolen. What to do if your identify has been stolen. As well as,15 tips to protect your identity. That doesn’t mean identity theft won’t happen to you. But you will be in a better position to protect yourself from identity theft if you implement the tactics listed above. Please pin this post on Pinterest for future reference and share it with your friends and family.
This report was written by: