How To Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft across the United States has been escalating at an alarming rate in recent years. In fact, a new crime occurs every two seconds! Unfortunately, it is very easy to fall into the trap of an identity thief. The simple act of revealing your birth date and current address to unauthorized individuals online can lead to serious repercussions. You may notice your credit scores suddenly dropping or may even be accused of a crime that you did not commit.

Identity theft in its simplest terms refers to the illegal act of obtaining the personal details or financial information of another individual with the intent of perpetrating some sort of fraud, typically making unauthorized purchases or transactions, while pretending to be that individual.

Types of Identity Theft

People tend to picture someone clicking a link in an email that entices a person to reveal personal information about themselves when they think of identity theft, but there are a number of ways that people can fall victim to this crime.

Debit and Credit Cards

Technology has made life very easy, but conversely, it has made it easy for criminally-minded individuals to take advantage of certain situations. It is possible to have your identity stolen with the simple swipe of your card using machines called credit card skimmers. These discreet little devices, typically found on ATMs or gas station pumps, gather your personal information right from your card. You can also have your identity stolen through your card if you lose it. When this happens, it is important to report it right away to get a new card and change your password.

Steps to Take To Avoid This Type of Identity Theft:

  • Shop at locations you trust – especially when purchasing gas
  • Quickly assess any ATM or debit machine you use before inputting your pin – look for a card reader that sticks out further than normal, loose or jiggly parts on the card reader, and a thick pin pad
  • Hide your password when entering it, and don’t use easy to guess passwords like your birthdate
  • Be aware of the expiry dates of your debit and credit cards and when you should be expecting replacement cards in the mail

 

Driver’s License, Social Security Number, or Passport Misuse

These important pieces of identification can help identity thieves in a number of ways. They can allow them to pin traffic violations or other crimes on you, make a false social security claim, travel the globe, or even file taxes under your name. An identity thief can not only fraudulently use these cards for their intended purposes, but can also learn more facts about you such as your birthday, height, weight, address, and more, allowing them to perpetuate larger acts of fraud, usually financially related against you.

Steps to Take To Avoid This Type of Identity Theft:

  • Don’t carry your passport or SSN on you regularly
  • Report lost or stolen cards right away
  • Don’t give sensitive information over the phone or in an email
  • When asked to show identification don’t hand it over to the person, simply show them
  • Ask why they need that information if being asked to share it
  • Don’t use your SSN are a password

Phishing Schemes

As mentioned above, these are the type of identity theft schemes that involve giving your personal information away over the internet but can also include giving that information over the phone, by text, or even through the mail as well. This type of theft happens when a person is tricked into voluntarily sharing their personal information through some type of fraudulent story, whether it be a fake call from the IRS, an email from a Nigerian prince, a text informing you of a possible refund on your phone bill, or many more. The creativity of phishing scams seems endless.

Steps to Take To Avoid This Type of Identity Theft:

  • Never give your personal information over the phone, through text, or by email
  • When receiving a call from the IRS, your phone company, etc. don’t give out any information, hang up, and then call your actual service provider to check the validity of the call
  • Don’t click on questionable links in emails, over social media, through text, etc.
  • Question communication from companies you were not expecting – be skeptical

What to Do if Your Identity Has Been Stolen

The first thing to do when you believe you have fallen victim to identity theft is to take a breath and try not to panic. Every major outlet where personal information is used from your credit card companies to the IRS and passport offices have procedures in place to help you get things straightened out and to restore your identity to you. It is important to contact each organization and explain the situation to them. You can also contact local law enforcement to make them aware of your situation. And you can reach out to a licensed private investigator in your area. With their skilled abilities, they can not only assist you with the process of restoring your identity and making sure it is more secure than ever, they can also conduct a thorough investigation and help track down the individual who stole it in the first place, hopefully bringing you the justice you deserve.

It is crucial to reach out immediately if you notice any suspicious activity involving your personal information, such as a false application for a credit card, a letter from a company that you do not support financially, and anything else that you did not authorize.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.