Top 3 tips to prevent identity theft

20 Jul Top 3 tips to prevent identity theft

The Federal Trade Commission offers three easy ways to safeguard your identity, your security, your property and your credit standing from identity theft.

But first, what is identify theft? It is the fraudulent use of another person’s information, such as a name, account, access code, for the purpose of obtaining money, property, or other value.

What is the scope of the problem? Most people agree, identity theft has quickly become the biggest fraudulent criminal activity, and internet sites abound with information and examples.
How long has this been a problem? For a long time in one fashion or another. In just one example, going back only to 2005, “According to an Federal Trade Commission survey “8.3 million American adults, or 3.7 percent of all American adults, were victims of identity theft ”.

And it keeps getting bigger. In 2011, “The Internal Revenue Service may have delivered more than $5 billion in refund checks to identity thieves who filed fraudulent tax returns for 2011”, via The Huffington Post.
And bigger. In 2013, “Identify theft is expected to surpass traditional theft as the leading form of property crime”, from USA Today.
So what can you do? According to the FTC, you should “Deter, Detect and Defend” your personal data from theft.

Deter involves:
Shred financial documents you throw away;
Control access to your social security number; do not carry it or list it on your checks; give it out only if absolutely necessary;
Offer to use a different form of identification instead of your social security number;
Do not respond to phone callers who ask for personal information unless you recognize the person’s voice;
Do not open email from unknown sources; and do not click on links in emails sent to you;
Avoid easy to guess passwords, such as names, addresses, birthdays;
Keep personal information in a safe and secure place so others may not gain access.

Detect problems:
If expected bills do not arrive;
You are denied credit for unknown reasons;
You receive collection calls on unknown accounts;
Regularly check a free copy of your credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com each year.

Defend yourself immediately:
Place a fraud alert on your credit report through the credit bureaus;
Close accounts that have been compromised;
File a police report if possible;
Report your problem to the FTC at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

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Andy Miofsky, Esq.

Andy Miofsky holds the highest AV PREEMINENT rating from Martindale Hubbell Law Directory and a perfect 10.0 from AVVO. Andy is an Illinois consumer rights lawyer with offices in Granite City Illinois. Andy represents people with bankruptcy and student loan debt problems throughout the Southern District of Illinois since 1979.
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