Identity Theft – Straightening Out Your Credit In The Aftermath
$1.48 billion, this is the total financial loss due to 1.4 million fraud reports the Federal Trade Commission processed in 2018. Identity theft, debt collection and imposter scam were the most common categories of fraud complaints. More than 167,000 users reported that their information was used to open fraudulent credit card accounts.
Last year, ITRC (the Identity Theft Resource Center) predicted data abuse, data privacy and data breaches to be the focus of identity theft prevention services. However, cyber attackers are more ambitious now. Supply chain attacks, Malicious PowerShell scripts, and malicious email attachments were increased in 2019. Though Ransom activity was down by 20%, Formjacking was up 117%. New account frauds were up 13% and account takeovers were up 79%. Attackers use Social Security Number to aggressively target the very old and the very young. Members of the military, social media users and repeat victims are also vulnerable to credit card identity theft and bank frauds. Around 2.5 million deceased identities are stolen per year. The highest number of identity theft reports come from California.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is the illegal act of obtaining someone’s personal and financial information to make transactions or purchases. The thief assumes the victim’s name or identity and misuses it for his financial advantage or other malicious motives. Someone can steal your identity in different ways. He can sift through trash to get your bank account and credit card statement for credit card identity theft. He can also use Hi-Tech methods to steal customer information by accessing corporate databases. Being a victim of credit card identity theft can completely ruin your credit ratings.
Types of Identity Theft
Following are the most common forms of Identity theft
- Criminal identity theft
- Medical identity theft
- Financial identity theft
- Child identity theft
Criminal Identity Theft
Sometimes criminals create fake IDs or steal someone’s credentials to get state-issued IDs. In a criminal identity fraud, charges are filed against the person whose identity is stolen. The victim learns about criminal identity theft when he receives court summons.
Medical Identity Theft
The thief steals the victim’s personal information to obtain medical services, medical insurance coverage, prescription drugs and more. This crime can be very costly and complicated to resolve.
Financial Identity Theft
This is the most common form of identity theft. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, financial identity theft led to a loss of $16 billion in 2014. The thief tries to get a loan, credit card or simply purchase something by misusing the victim’s financial information.
Child Identity Theft
The thief misuses a minor’s Social Security number to obtain driver’s licenses or open lines of credit. A child’s Social Security number is extremely valuable as there is no information associated with the SSN. The problem of child identity theft is very common, serious and growing.
Identity Theft Protection
Being aware and alert is the best way of identity theft prevention. The following are the steps you can take for the best identity theft protection.
Freeze Your Credit
First of all, freeze your credit with TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. This will restrict access to your records. No one will be able to open new credit files. You can download each bureau’s smartphone app and lock and unlock your credit whenever you want. Go for identity theft protection services if you don’t want to freeze your credit.
Safeguard Your SSN
When someone asks for your Social Security number, ask some questions such as:
- Why do you need my SSN?
- How will you protect my SSN?
- Avoid carrying your card
Use a combination of numbers, letters, and special characters. Use different passwords for each account.
Limit The Information You Are Sharing
Make sure that your personal details are not visible to strangers. Avoid giving information to any random caller. Don’t click any link you receive in your inbox. Even when you recognize the sender, instead of using the email link, navigate to the website.
Watch Your Mail
When you are out of town or not collecting your mails, someone can easily steal your mails. So, collect your mails or have a reliable person to do it for you.
Shred your pre-approved offers and credit card and bank statements.
Watch When You Shop
Keep an eye on your wallet at all times. Avoid keeping your credit or debit card in your coat pocket. Never share your PIN.
Protect Your Data
Protect your phone with a strong password. Use two-factor authentication. You can use an authenticator app. Don’t turn on Bluetooth when you are not using it. Think about your data protection before using public Wi-Fi. Watch the permissions you are giving when you download an app.
Review Your Credit Report
Pull your credit report every four months and review it for suspicious or incorrect information.
Monitor Medical And Financial Statement
Make sure that you recognize everything on your bank and credit card statements. Shred the paperwork you no longer need. Secure your health care records.
Report The Crime
Request a police report at your local sheriff’s department. You can also file a complaint with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).
Close Your Account
Close your existing account and make no payments on your missing checks. Also, request the check verification companies to avoid accepting checks under the stolen account. Call SCAN@1800-262-7771 to make sure that bad checks are not being passed in your name.
Following are the important numbers for reporting identity theft:
Federal Trade Commission Hotline
Credit Reporting Agencies
Check Verification Companies: