This year, Identity Theft Awareness Week is observed from January 30th to February 3rd. While identity theft remains a serious problem, there are many steps you can take to keep your personal and financial information secure.
The Importance of Protecting Your Information
Identity theft occurs when an individual’s personal information is stolen by someone with the intent to commit fraud. Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, including children and the elderly. According to USA.gov, some of the most common types of identity theft include tax ID theft, medical ID theft, and unemployment ID theft, as well as the more widely recognized credit card fraud.
Identity theft can have serious consequences. Victims can have their credit status damaged and be held responsible for financial transactions they didn’t make and accounts they didn’t open. Resolving these issues can be time-consuming and lead to additional expenses like legal fees.
How To Prevent Identity Theft
There are many proactive steps you can take to help keep your data safe. Some examples include:
- Keep identifying documents such as your Social Security card, birth certificate, and passport in a secure place.
- Don’t give out your Social Security number unless it’s necessary, and if you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to ask why it’s needed and how that information will be used.
- Regularly monitor your bank accounts, credit card statements, and billing cycles so you’ll recognize any unfamiliar charges or interruptions.
- Use strong passwords and two-factor identification for online accounts.
- Don’t give out personal information over the phone, by mail, or via email unless you have initiated contact with a trusted source.
- Collect your mail promptly and place a hold on your mail when you know you’ll be away.
- Shred documents such as credit and loan applications, receipts, and old account statements.
Reporting Identity Theft
Identity theft can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission online at IdentityTheft.gov or by phone at 1-877-438-4338. Your bank, credit card provider, and other retailers where you have accounts can also be contacted directly if you notice unauthorized charges. In some cases, you may also need to make a report to your local police station.
For additional resources on how to report and prevent identity theft, please visit USA.gov.