Identity Theft: How to Prevent It and What To Do If It Happens to You
As Dwight Schrute very accurately stated, “Identity theft is not a joke Jim! Millions of families suffer every year!”
So, more than likely, you know someone who has been affected by identity theft (an estimated 9 million people have their identity compromised each year). While no one is immune to identity theft, there are protective measures you can take to try and protect yourself from becoming a victim. If you are a victim, try not to panic but do act fast, scammers and thieves work quickly to get as much out of their crime before it is caught.
Protecting yourself from identity theft:
To protect yourself best, it is important to know the most common ways that hackers get your personal information. Identity thieves are smart and savvy, they can find personal information in a multitude of ways including: your trash, mailbox, email, stolen wallets/purses, the internet, data breaches, and I am sure they are working on more as we write this. To make it harder for these criminals to obtain your personal information, be sure to shred any and all documents containing this information, especially: your social security number, mother’s maiden name, any bank or financial information, and birth date. If you absolutely have to mail documents containing this information it may be a good idea to purchase tracking through the post office or shipping company so that you can ensure it arrives safely. Unfortunately, the internet can be a playground for hackers and scammers. Do not enter any personal information to websites or emails unless you 1. have initiated the call to your bank, financial institution, or trusted company and they have advised you to do so, 2. see for the lock symbol in the hyperlink, if you do not see this, be aware and ask lots of questions or 3. send the email encrypted or password secured. Also, be aware of what you post on social media, many of the “challenges” you see on Facebook are created to trick people into posting the answers to many security questions including: mother’s name, favorite pet, siblings name, etc. Trust me, you don’t need to prove you know your husband best by putting all their personal information online. Some other helpful tips to protect yourself are to promptly and consistently review credit and debit card statements, check your credit report (you are eligible to receive a free copy once a year), never give personal information over the phone unless you know the business and initiated the call, and when in doubt do not click the link! Any business would rather you call and verify the link is legit than to give your personal information to an identity thief.
What to do if your identity is stolen:
The faster you can catch it, the better off you are. As stated earlier, criminals work quickly! Make sure to review and place a fraud alert or freeze on your credit report. You can do this by contacting one of these national credit report companies:
If any of your accounts have been affected, you need to close them and open new ones. Report the identity theft to the Attorney General’s office at, ag.ky.gov/scams as well as your local law enforcement. Make sure you keep any letters and document any conversations about the matter; who you spoke to, and when. Lastly, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov or call 1-877-438-4338. If your identity theft affects your tax return in any way contact your accountant and fill out an Identity Theft Affidavit.
Again, identity theft can happen to anyone, so don’t beat yourself up over it. Stay calm, take the necessary steps to get it under control and as always, contact us if there is anything we can do to help!