Identity theft is a serious problem in America. Thieves will get your personal information so they can steal from you and steal from others all the while impersonating you. This means you’re stuck with the mess left behind with answering to bill collectors and clearing your name—not to mention the effect it has on your credit score.
What is personal information?
Your personal information includes your:
- Social security number;
- Driver’s license
- Date of birth
- Account numbers
Some information by itself is not personal (such as your birthday); however, combined with other information, an identity thief could piece together enough information to impersonate you.
There are various ways thieves will get your personal information:
- Social Engineering” and posing as a legitimate company who needs your personal information
- Stealing your mail, wallet, or purse
- Going through your trash
- Computer viruses
- Unsecure websites you provide personal information
- Stealing your personal information from other companies
These are just a few ways. It’s important to always be vigilant and protect your personal information.
Tips to Protect Yourself
- Be leery of strange phone calls. Never give your personal information to anyone you do not absolutely trust. If someone asks for your personal information, ask that person why it is necessary. Are they really who they claim? Even then you should be very cautious.
- Watch out for scams in the mail; phony credit card applications or anything asking for your personal information.
- Shred any mail or other paper statements you do not need with your personal information. This includes old bank and credit card statements, and utility bills.
- Pay close attention to your bank and credit card statements. Look for unfamiliar bank withdrawals or credit card charges.
- Monitor your credit The Federal Trade Commission has information on how consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit report from the nationwide credit bureaus once every 12 months. Visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports.
If you suspect your identity may have been stolen, you should go to the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft website at www.idtheft.gov or you can call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338). There you will find information on specific steps to follow. This includes placing a fraud alert with credit reporting agencies, placing credit freezes, and steps to repair your credit.
- Federal Trade Commission — www.ftc.gov — 877-ID-Theft
- Equifax — www.equifax.com — 1-800-685-111
- Experian — www.experian.com — 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion — www.transunion.com — 1-800-888-4213