What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft, as defined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), occurs when “someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. Damaging your finances, credit history and reputation”.
How Can I Prevent Identity Theft?
- Review your credit report, look for any irregularities and report them as soon as possible. You are entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from https://www.annualcreditreport.com/ or by calling 1-877-322-8228. This is the only Government authorized website to provide consumers with a FREE annual credit report.
- Stop pre-approved credit offers. Have your name removed from marketing lists. Call toll-free 1-888-567-8688 or online.
- Respond quickly to notices from the Internal Revenue Service. If someone has used your Social Security number on a tax return, contact IRS’s Specialized Identity Theft Protection Unit 1-800-908-4490.
- Read your bank, credit and account statements, and Explanation of Medical benefits. Look for changes you DID NOT make.
- Keep your important papers secure. Lock up your financial documents and records.
- Be careful with your email. Do not share passwords. Make sure to log out when leaving, especially when using a public computer in areas such as libraries, coffee houses, or public Wi-Fi areas.
- Create strong passwords. Mix 10 or more letters, numbers and special characters. DO NOT use the same password for more than one account.
- Shred sensitive information. Identity thieves get a hold of your information by “dumpster diving” and using the information they find to open credit cards or pay for purchases online. In order to protect yourself be sure to shred all documents before tossing them in the garbage.
- Don’t overshare on social networking sites. Posting too much information about yourself on social networking sites makes it easy for identity thieves to find out detailed information about your life (birthdate, address, etc.). For tips on how to limit your online exposure visit the California Office of the Attorney General.
- Protect your Debit Card and PIN. DO NOT share your PIN. Use credit instead of debit whenever possible. Only use bank's ATM’s and review your bank statements regularly. Be sure to report any transactions you do not recognize or ones that may look suspicious.
For more tips on keeping your identity safe visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
What If My Identity Has Been Stolen?
Visit https://www.identitytheft.gov/ to get a personal recovery plan. This a government website. They will walk you through the plan, help you track your progress, and assist you every step of the way.