Identity theft is a nightmare that can impact you for years. While it may take some effort, be vigilant to avoid this happening to you.
Your identity matters because criminals can open fraudulent accounts in your name or take out loans in your name without you knowing it. Often it is months later before you realize your credit score is wrecked and you are receiving collection notices. Here are steps to protect yourself.
Protect your personal information:
- Don’t carry your Social Security card – your SS# is one of the keys to identity theft. Protect it!
- Don’t provide your Social Security number to anyone except for legit reasons – employment applications, opening a financial account, getting a credit check, checking or freezing your credit reports. And only over a secure website. Never send in an email.
- Never provide personal information to anyone in response to an unsolicited request. Don’t use the link or phone number given in the email or phone message. Find the contact information for the institution on your own.
- Don’t throw anything out in the trash with sensitive information on it. Shred it!
Protect yourself when you are online:
- Never open email links or attachments from unknown senders.
- Be cautious of email or URL spoofing. View the actual email address or actual URL by hovering your mouse over the address or link. On a phone, press and hold over the address or link.
- Protect your identity in the digital world – follow the tips in our post “Don’t Get Hacked!”
- Set your privacy settings on social media to private and only accept friend requests from those you know. Enter the bare minimum of personal information.
Prevent credit fraud:
- Credit Freeze – One of the proven ways to prevent new account fraud is to freeze your credit. This restricts access to your credit report which makes it nearly impossible for thieves to open a new account in your name. Contact the 3 major credit monitoring agencies to do this. The FTC has some great info on this topic https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs. Note you will have to unfreeze your credit to open a new account or buy a car or get a loan, etc.
Take A Hike:
It is critical that you protect yourself and your identity. The “Protect your personal information” steps are a must to follow. Then look at the rest and do as many as you can.
What a criminal can do with a stolen identity:
- Open an account in your name as mentioned above.
- Submit a fraudulent state or federal tax return in your name.
- File for social security benefits in your name or redirect benefits to their account.
- Get medical care or prescription drugs in your name.
At least once a week I get a message addressed to “Maria”. And just so you know, that isn’t my name. It always starts out as Hi Maria, blah blah blah and then goes on to tell me I have won something or they need to get in immediate touch with me or they have something for me, etc. Each time I get this text I block the incoming number. But it just keeps coming. This SCREAMS scam in my book.
Use “Don’t Get Hacked!” and look for what happens if your identity is stolen coming soon.