With the advancement of technology also comes many forms of fraud including identity theft. Whether offline and online, we must be alert and guard our personal information not to be hacked by somebody and be used for fraudulent purposes. This post will help you to protect your identity and saves you from inconveniences after your personal details had been hacked.
What is identity theft?
With identity theft, a scammer uses personal information such as your Social Security number, driver’s license number or financial account information to wreak havoc on your financial life.
An identity thief may take over your bank and drain your balance, charge a credit card up to the limit, take over your utility or mobile phone account, and apply for credit and loan accounts in your name, sticking with you the bills and a damaged history to clean up.
An identity thief might also apply for health insurance, jobs, tax refunds and even commit other crimes while impersonating you.
They nab your private information through stolen wallets, bogus websites, computer viruses, by combing through your mail ( snail mail and email ), dumpster diving behind businesses, posing as employees at legitimate businesses and using skimmers at ATMs to nab your PIN and financial account information.
How to protect yourself from identity theft
1. Guard your important personal information. Always keep your personal information like Social Security number, birthdate, credit card number and driver’s license safe. Only share your information with companies that you trust.
2. Shred private financial documents with a cross-cut shredder before recycling.
3. Avoid posting bills in your mail box, where an identity thief can strike. Instead, place your outgoing mail in collection boxes or drop your bills and other mail at the post office.
4. Keep virus and spyware software up-to-date on your laptop and home computer and use firewall software for protection.
5. Use strong passwords to protect your financial accounts. Change your passwords frequently. You should also follow the advice of experts when data breaches happen – they can tell you whether you need to change your password, get credit monitoring, or do more to protect your identity.
What are the signs your identity has been stolen
Identity theft is everywhere. Here are a few common signs that your identity has been compromised.
1. A sudden increase in an account balance. An expected increase in the balance of one or more credit card accounts could be a possible sign that someone made charges in your name.
2. Your card is declined. If you pay your bills on time and haven’t overspent your credit card’s limit, your card is unlikely to be declined. If it is, pay attention. Don’t shrug it off and try again later. Find out why.
3. Your credit score drops. One good reason to monitor your credit score is to watch for any unexplained drops that could be a sign someone is using and trashing your credit.
4. Unauthorized inquiries. When you apply for credit – for a new credit card, for example – the lender checks your credit report or scores. This creates an inquiry on your credit report. If you are keeping an eye on your credit reports and find inquiries you didn’t initiate, someone may be trying to open credit in your name.
5. A mysterious new account. If you’re keeping an eye on your credit reports you’ll be able to watch for any new accounts that you did not open. The sooner you spot unauthorized credit opened in your name – the faster you can shut it down.
6. Debt collectors are calling. You know you’ve paid your bills on time. So why is this debt collector calling and demanding payment for something you didn’t buy? It could be that you’ve been hit by an identity thief.
Steps to take if you have fallen victim to identity theft
If you’ve been hit by an identity theft, it’s important that you act immediately to prevent further damage to your finances. Here’s what you’re going to do:
Get on the phone. Call the bank, lender, card company, utility or merchant with whom you have the affected account. Fast action stops thieves from racking up more charges in your name.
Write down everything. Grab a notebook. Log every call and contact you make. Note the date, time and length of the call, who you spoke with, what you said and what they said. File copies of documents. Use certified mail for all letters.
Find allies and resources. Call your insurance agent, bank or credit union and the human resources department at work to ask what access you may have to free or low-cost damage-control programs for identity theft victims.
Reset your passwords. Make your passwords strong, which means they should include upper and lower case letters, as well as numbers and symbols.
Consider a ” Security Freeze “. This denies access to your credit to all but your current creditors.
Monitor your credit. Order your free credit reports.
Make a police report. Call the police. Even they can’t catch the thieves immediately, reporting the crime could help make a case against the thieves down the line. And you may need a police report to prove that charges made in your name are not yours.
Be patient. It might be tough to hear when you’re the stressed-out victim of identity theft, but resolving this problem could take some time and work on your part. Take a big breath once in a while and keep forging ahead.
If you had been a victim of an identity theft and you’d like to share your experience with it, feel free to comment below. Thanks for reading.