Protecting Your Identity Online
Identity theft is on the rise, and each year, millions of people become victims of the crime. There are numerous forms of identity theft, but financial identity theft is arguably the most common. With this type of theft, an individual's personal identity has been stolen and crimes are committed that will result in the financial injury of the victim. This information might include Social Security numbers, credit card information, bank account numbers, and other financial data.
If you find that you have been a victim of identity theft, it is important that you act quickly in order to minimize the damage. You should immediately put a fraud alert onto your credit reports and contact any institutions that were directly affected by the breach. For example, if your credit card was stolen, you should immediately contact the issuer. It is also essential that you contact the Federal Trade Commission, file a police report, and protect your Social Security number by speaking with the Social Security Administration and the IRS.
Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to prevent yourself from financial identity theft. Be wary of phone calls and promotional offers that might ask for your personal information, and keep your important documents secure. Review your credit reports regularly, use secure sites when shopping online, and never place documentation with personal information listed in the trash without shredding it first.
Understanding how to prevent identity theft is essential in order to keep yourself safe. Prevention starts with carefully managing your personal information, including only carrying essential documents with you and never giving out personal information over the phone. Be sure to monitor your credit and shred paperwork with personal identifying information before throwing it out.
Steps to Take if Identity Theft is Suspected
If you are a victim of identity theft, you should take immediate action by contacting the fraud alert department of one of the three credit reporting agencies, as the agency you call is required to contact the other two. Contact your insurance companies, banks, and lenders to make them aware of the situation, and open new accounts if you are worried that your bank account information has been compromised.
Actions to Take if Identity Theft is Confirmed
If identity theft has been confirmed, you'll want to verify that a fraud alert has been placed on your credit report. Ensure all bank or credit card accounts that have been created fraudulently or tampered with have been closed, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission in order to help law enforcement track down the identity thieves. You should also contact your local police department to file a police report, and if law enforcement seems reluctant to take your report, be sure to contact another jurisdiction for assistance.