According to the Consumer Sentinel Network, out of the 3.2 million scam reports given by consumers, the most popular form of fraud was identity theft.
What is identity theft? It’s a crime where someone uses another’s personal data, most often for their own financial gain.
Thieves can get your Social Security number, your bank account, or credit card number and then use that information fraudulently.
The good news is that there are steps you can do to prevent identity theft, and measures you can take if you suspect it’s happened to you.
Read on to learn all you need to know.
How Does Identity Theft Occur?
There are many ways crooks find and use your personal information.
“Shoulder surfing” is when someone near is watching you as you punch in a number, or offer your credit card number while on the phone. It’s a good idea to be aware of your surroundings anytime you are on the phone in public or using your PIN on an ATM or other machine.
Your trash might include junk mail that criminals can use, such as pre-approved credit card offers. Make sure you shred any “junk” mail that has your name and other information about you on it before your pitch it.
The location of your mailbox might make it easy for others to steal your mail. You might want to consider a post office box instead.
Finally, responding to a spam email that is requesting personal data is always a no-no. A good practice is to block all spammers on your email accounts.
Get More Protection
You may not realize your identity has been stolen until your credit card is denied, or you can’t get a loan due to bad credit. Besides the steps suggested above, you can get identity theft protection from reputable security companies like the one at this site.
Identity protection will track your credit activity and credit scores, and alert you immediately when there is a suspected breach of security.
Other steps you can take: check your credit report at least once a year (annualcreditreport.com) and review all bank, credit card, medical, and other statements each month. Guard your social security number and do not give it out unless necessary.
What Should I Do if I’m a Victim of Identity Theft?
If you suspect you’re a victim of identity theft, try to be sure you do the following right away:
- Get in touch with the companies.
- Get copies of your credit report and place a fraud alert on your report
- Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission
- File a report with your local police department
Identitytheft.gov will give you an entire plan for dealing with identity theft based on your personal situation.
What is Identity Theft? It’s a Crime
Identity theft is a felony crime that carries up to 15-30 years in prison.
Because of intense work to combat identity theft, there has been a slight decrease in these types of crimes. But identity theft is still a temptation to criminals since it is so easy to commit.
Now that you know what is identity theft and how to prevent it, take the steps you need today to make sure you are protected now and in the future!
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