First Financial Identity Theft
What is Identity Theft?
It’s likely that you have heard about it a lot lately. Recent government statistics show that more than 7 million adults were victims of identity theft last year. That equals 19,178 people a day, 700 per hour, or 13.3 a minute, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) in San Diego, California. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that identity theft is the number one source of consumer complaints and costs the average victim more than $1,000 to recover their identity.
Identity theft is a crime in which someone takes your personal information (such as your name or social security number) in an effort to steal from your existing accounts, open fraudulent accounts in your name, or obtain a loan using your credit history.
How to Prevent Identity Theft!
Unfortunately, identity theft can happen to anyone, even you. The easiest way to control identity theft is to prevent it from happening. Here are some tips to reduce the likeliness of becoming a victim:
- Monitor all of your accounts and statements consistently and carefully
- Review your credit report at least once a year
- Shred or destroy any documents that contain your personal information prior to throwing them in the garbage
- Never carry your social security card in your wallet or use your social security number on checks or identification cards, such as a driver’s license or membership card
- Report lost or stolen credit cards, checks or other personal information immediately
- Don’t leave your mail in an unsecured mailbox
The FTC provides an overview of identity fraud and suggestions on ways to protect your personal information.
What To Do if You Suspect You’re A Victim of Identity Theft
If you become a victim of identity theft, there are three steps you should take immediately!
- Contact any one of the three major credit bureaus listed below. Ask them to place a 90-day Fraud/Security Alert on your account, which will require any company seeking to extend credit on your account to request additional identification and/or contact you for verification. Placing an alert with any of the credit bureaus will automatically create an alert at all three bureaus, and each will send you a free copy of your credit report within 7-10 days.
- Contact all of your financial institutions and creditors to make them aware of the situation. Close any accounts that have been tampered with or were opened fraudulently.
- Call your local police or sheriff’s department and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.consumer.gov/idtheft or (877) ID-THEFT.