Identity theft is a serious crime that can destroy your finances and ruin your life. Identity theft can ruin your credit score, destroy your ability to take out a loan, or even get you arrested for crimes you did not commit.
There are three methods to protect against identity theft and the damages it can do to your finances and your freedom:
Deter Identity Theft
Prevention is the most effective step to avoid becoming an identity theft victim. Here are some tips on how to deter identity thieves from making you an easy mark.
- Shred, burn, or otherwise destroy your financial documents when you discard them.
- Protect your Social Security Number. Don’t carry your SSN in your wallet, or give it to people who do not have an official need to know.
- Use strong passwords with big and small letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using passwords based on names, dates, or anything else easy to guess.
- Secure your financial data within your house. Don’t leave financial data, account information, Social Security Numbers, or other sensitive personal or financial information where thieves or other people can take advantage of them.
- Don’t give out personal information over the phone or internet.
- Secure your computer with anti-virus software, firewalls, and anti-spyware.
- Don’t click on links sent in unsolicited e-mails; they may be malicious! Instead, type the website location directly into the browser.
Detect Identity Theft
If you are a victim of identity theft, the more quickly you discover the crime, the better chance you have of limiting the damages. Be aware for these signs:
- Bills not arriving as expected.
- Unexpected bills for items you did not purchase, or for accounts you do not own.
- Calls or letters from creditors or bill collectors for items you did not purchase or accounts you did not open.
- Denials of credit for no reason.
As part of your financial routine, you should make it a habit to review your financial statements on a monthly basis. You can also get one free credit report every year. Your credit report will contain information about which accounts you own, your credit history, and other information. Make sure the information on your credit report matches what you know to be true. Be on the lookout for changes that you did not make.
If you notice these signs, you need to defend yourself against identity theft!
Defend Against Identity Theft
As soon as you suspect ID theft has occurred, you should defend against it!
- Place fraud alerts on your credit reports
- Review your credit reports carefully
- Close accounts that have been tampered with, or that you suspect may have been accessed fraudulently
- File a police report. Most creditors will want proof that a crime has been committed.
- Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission.
I hope you are never a victim of Identity theft. If you are, quick action is the best way to diminish the effects. Deter. Detect. Defend. Your financial future is worth it.
Reference: FTC – ID Theft page.