“He who steals my purse steals nothing. He who steals my name steals everything.”
– William Shakespeare -
1 in 4 people will have their identity stolen. Identity fraud occur every two seconds. It takes victims between eighteen months and two years to clean up the financial mess.
Having your identify stolen is real, happens often, and yes, it can happen to you!
As we continue to build upon our Finance 101 series, we will focus on specific steps to ensure you are protected. The best way to avoid identify theft is to protect your financial identify and identification numbers.
THREE TYPES OF IDENTITY THEFT
Thieves use your personal information to find your medical insurance, once obtained they will have procedures and prescriptions under your name. You will be responsible for the out-of-pocket cost and your medical history will reflect the thieves’ conditions.
Thieves will commit a crime using your name. You can be arrested and charged for a crime you did not commit which can be difficult to prove it was not you.
Thieves gain access to you credit cards, bank accounts, tax records, and brokerage accounts allowing them to open new accounts, file taxes and steal your money leaving your credit history in ruins.
HOW THEY GET YOUR INFORMATION
Hackers put a virus on your computer called “Key Strokes” where they can see what you are typing giving them access to your critical information.
Small electronic device used to copy information from credit card or ATM cards. Thieves typically hide the devices over an ATM machine or gas pump so when you put card in the machine, it stores your information giving them access to you account.
Thieves will send an email that looks like it is from your bank or any other company you may do business with, asking for your personal information. Once you enter your information, the hackers have your personal information. Always go to the business website independent of any link you receive in an email.
Thieves will go through your trash to obtain any old mail with critical information.
Records such as your mortgages and death certificates contain your SSN and other personal information.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
Know Your Credit Score & Monitor Your Credit Report
- You can request a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com
- Sign up for www.lifelock.com, which provides daily monitoring for all your financials at a nominal cost. The upfront cost is worth it to avoid dealing with identity theft.
Opt-Out of Pre-Approved Credit Offers
- Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or make a request online at https://www.optoutprescreen.com/opt_form.cgi
Note: Your social security and date of birth are not required to process you request, but will ensure successful processing if provided.
Request To Be Excluded From Phone Solicitations
- Register with the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do No Call Registry @ https://donotcall.gov or by phone 1-888-383-1222.
Request to Be Excluded from Junk Mail
- Register online with the Direct Marketing Association http://www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglist/#regform
Note there is a $5 processing charge
Protect Your Social Security Number (SSN)
- Remove your SSN from your checks and drivers license
- Store in a safety deposit box, do not carry you SSN card in your wallet
- Do not give out your SSN over the phone unless you placed the call. Financial institutions and department stores will never call you and ask for your SSN over the phone!
Protect Your Medical Insurance Card
- Treat your insurance card the same way you would your SSN.
- Check your insurance payments regularly to make sure all payments are for actual treatments you received.
Protect Yourself When Online Shopping
- Only provide personal and credit cad information when the merchant is using SSL (Secure Socket Layer). Which will either have a tiny lock symbol at the bottom of the web browsers or will start with <https:/> instead of <http:/>.
- Always use a credit card, not your ATM card, because under federal law and your credit card agreement, your liability for unauthorized charges are limited to $50. Once your ATM identity is stolen, they can withdraw your cash which may not be recoverable.
Go Paperless or Shred Mail
- Go paperless on bills and bank statements. The primary sources of information for identify theft is credit card bills and bank statements stolen from mailboxes.
- Cross shred all mail and documents containing personal information.
Protect Your Passwords
- Choose good passwords and pins, using upper case, lower case, symbols, and numbers combined.
- Record information in a password protected document or use www.lastpass.com, which securely stores all your passwords online in one location.
Protect Your Phone
- Password protect your phone.
- Install a “find your phone app”, which will allow you to erase your phone remotely if stolen.
Protect Your Computer
- Install anti-spyware and fire wall programs and keep them current. MacAfee and Norton are well-known software, and easily downloadable.
- Use precaution when using public wi-fi; only activate when you need connectivity and turn off file sharing and printer functions when using wifi.
IF YOU ARE A VICTIM OF IDENTITY THEFT
1. File a local police report
2. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Phone #: 877.438.4338 (877.ID.THEFT)
3. Contact Credit Bureau Fraud Alert Hotlines
By Elizabeth Cumby, M.B.A. - Entrepreneur and Finance Expert