Identity Theft: How Lessons from the Past Can Save You in 2014
Imagine receiving a letter alerting you to an unpaid account, followed by a series of phone calls, a credit score ding and, finally, a denial of your credit card. What’s going on? A frightening and ever-growing threat, identity theft involves the unlawful use of one person’s personal information by another in order to obtain credit or other financial gains, a fate you want to avoid. Luckily, the U.S. Department of Justice has released a report titled “Victims of Identity Theft, 2012” that sheds light on how working parents can protect themselves and their kids in 2014.
Safeguard Personal Information
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 6.7 percent of American citizens have experienced identity theft, with the vast majority of it relating to preexisting bank accounts, credit cards or other account types. Only 4.1 percent of victims had their information used to create new accounts. This indicates a need for caution when mentioning account information, sharing or writing down passwords, throwing away bills or leaving them laying around. Destroy unwanted bills, keep passwords in a safe place at home and be discreet about account information.
Be Savvy Online
Many people inadvertently “shed” information online, says the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Configure your browser preferences to delete your email address and use a pseudonym instead of your name. Set up cookie alerts so you know when sites are trying to save information about you. And always monitor your accounts. The consumers with the best chance of avoiding identity theft are those who consistently monitor their bank accounts and credit cards for the least sign of fraudulent activity.
The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) advises looking out for any of the following signs: failure to receive mail that usually comes regularly, phone calls regarding strange accounts, mysterious items on your credit statement or unexpected denial of credit cards. Think you’re a pro? You might even consider a job at Lifelock, an identity theft protection company where employee culture is built around the idea of looking out for each and every member.
Respond Quickly to Fraud
Checking your bank account regularly isn’t the only way to stay clear of identity theft. US-CERT also recommends that you immediately file a police report so you have a record to refer to when fighting the fraud later. Contact any banks where you have an account, then contact all credit bureaus and explain the fraud. Ask them to put an alert on your credit report, which means they need to contact you before any new accounts are opened. If necessary, contact the Social Security Administration and the DMV to replace stolen information.
Help Kids Understand
In 2012, more than 35,000 victims of identity theft were between the age of 16 and 17, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. This means that even kids still living at home could potentially suffer fraud, so talk with them about identity theft. Forbes advises keeping a close eye on their Social Security cards and other personal information, such as birth certificates, since people close to the family account for a large portion of child identity theft.