Identity Theft – How Does It Occur and What Should You Do If Your Identity Is Stolen?

What exactly is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is when your personal identifying information – your name, date of birth, credit card or Social Security number – is unknowingly and wrongly used without your permission by others to commit fraud or similar crimes. Fraudsters will often commit identity theft for financial gain while causing significant loss or disadvantage to the victim. Victims of identity theft may wrongly suffer the consequences of the perpetrator’s actions including the erroneous responsibility of the crimes associated with their identity.

How does Identity Theft occur?

Identity theft can occur in a variety of ways. Thieves need to get creative to acquire your personal information, so they will try countless different ways, including:

  • Stealing – taking what isn’t yours, be it pickpocketing, theft, or housebreaking. Getting a hold of your wallet, purse, credit cards, mail, even your phone or personal devices.
  • Dumpster Diving – going through your trash to find documents or other papers that may contain personal information. This is becoming less common as more thieves use more sophisticated ways of obtaining your information.
  • Changing Addresses – completing a change of address to divert your mail, including bills and other personal papers, to another location without your knowledge.
  • Skimming – using modified or compromised card readers to capture your information when a credit or debit card is being used.
  • Phishing – impersonating trusted organizations over email, phone, or text message to dupe you into revealing personal information or login credentials, typically by using a fake corporate website or other form of data collection.
  • Spyware – a form of malware designed to intercept or acquire partial control of your computer to access personal information.

How can I protect myself from Identity Theft?

The best steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft start by being informed: understanding how thieves will try to acquire your personal information and engaging in good practices to minimize their opportunities to do so.

Safeguarding your personal information from identity thieves. This includes strong practices of preemptive information leaks, such as:

  • Shred, shred, shred! Finished with any documents that contain any of your personal information? Shred them! It is much harder to pull any personal information from documents if they are torn into a million pieces.
  • It’s better in your head. Don’t leave vital information, like your Social Security number, written down anywhere where it might be easily accessible. Avoid carrying this information in your wallet.
  • Who’s asking? Only provide any personal information over the phone, internet, or mail when you’ve successfully contacted the person or company you are currently dealing with. Confirm that this is indeed the proper avenue of contact that they usually take, and don’t be scared by a call or email threatening severe consequences for not complying with demands for your personal information.
  • 1234 is not secure! Passwords can be a pain to keep track of, but it’s best to use strong and obscure passwords alongside other layers of security like two-factor authentication to ensure that your accounts are as secure as possible. Try to avoid obvious passwords that might use your date of birth or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
  • That’s quite a long link. Never, ever click on any suspicious links sent to you via email, especially if you aren’t familiar with the names or companies they were sent from. Log in instead by typing in the web address you know to ensure you are going to the proper website. Firewalls and anti-spyware protection will also help ensure that you are safe from any untrustworthy links or downloads.

Monitor your financials, including bills and other statements. Be familiar with your spending and practice habits such as:

  • Where did that bill go? Keep track and be aware if you are missing a bill, are experiencing a denial of credit, are being informed about a purchase you know you didn’t make, or are finding unexpected statements to your bank account or credit card. If it seems suspicious, it could be thieves who have acquired your financials.
  • Check that report. Habitually inspect your credit report by calling 1-877-322-8228, or by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. It is a service created by the big three of major consumer reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, which allows you to request our annual free credit reports. You can also request your reports by writing to:

Annual Credit Report Request Service

P.O. Box 105281

Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

  • Freeze! Alternatively, you can use a security/credit freeze, which limits who can see your credit reporting information. It prevents thieves from opening accounts in your name.

What should I do if I am experiencing Identity Theft?

If you think that your personal information is being used without your permission, you should follow these steps:

  • File a police report immediately.
  • Notify the Federal Trade Commission that your information is being used by going to ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/ or by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338)
  • Notify your financial advisor and/or any financial institutions you use and your creditors.
  • Close any accounts you think are being compromised to prevent further activity.
  • Place a “fraud alert” on your credit reports, which can be done by contacting one of the three consumer reporting companies:

Where can I find additional information about Identity Theft?

Have more questions? You can use these helpful resources to learn more about identity theft, including:

  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a website all about identity theft and what consumers need to know to protect themselves: ftc.gov/idtheft
  • The FTC also has a brochure, Your Access to Free Credit Reports, which explains to consumers their rights and access to free annual credit reports. It can be found at: consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports
  • Additionally, you can find helpful tips and information about Internet fraud and keeping your computer secure at: OnGuardOnline.gov
  • Finally, you can also learn how to best safeguard your money and financials at: mymoney.gov/protect/Pages/Protect.aspx

To learn more about how Core Financial Outsourcing, Inc. can help you, please contact us today.

Information contained in this BLOG should not be construed as the rendering of specific bookkeeping, accounting, tax, consulting or other advice. Material may become outdated and anyone using this should research and update to ensure accuracy. In no event will Core Financial Outsourcing, Inc. be liable for any damages – direct or indirect or consequential – claimed to result from use of the material contained in this BLOG. Persons are encouraged to consult with their Core advisor BEFORE making decisions.

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