If you think identity theft is someone stealing your credit card and buying a new pair of shoes, think again. People’s lives get torn apart when their identity is stolen. In some cases, it takes years to make it right again.
Identity Theft is Like You Have an Evil Twin
Here are just a few cases of good people being victimized by those committing fraud:
Stancy Nesby of Oakland has been arrested, jailed or detained 11 times in 15 months. Someone stole her identity and alleged to be Stancy after committing a crime.
Amy Krebs is a victim to someone getting a hold of her Social Security Number. The criminal went on a spending spree without ever being challenged. Amy had to clean up the mess while the criminal never did any jail time.
Gabriel Jimenez had his identity stolen at 11. Now at 25, his credit is ruined and he is denied phone, gas and electricity service for something he never did.
These are regular people. They don’t live in fancy homes or drive expensive cars. They take their kids to school before going off to their 9 to 5 jobs.
It Is the Victim’s Fault
To make things worse, cleaning up your name after an identity theft is left to the victim. The same bureaucracies that gave people’s personal information to the criminals are now going to make the good people go through hell to prove their innocence.
According to the FTC, recovering from identity theft takes an average of six months and 200 hours of work.
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Assume Your Personal Information Is Stolen
Javelin Strategy & Research – a well-respected research firm – released their 2017 report on identity theft. They report identity theft was up 16% from 2015 to 2016.
Things aren’t looking any better for this year.
In 2017, the United States had a total of 1,339 data breaches. The number of records exposed from these breaches was 174,402,528. One breach in particular stands out.
On September 7, 2017 Equifax – one of the three largest credit agencies – reported discovering “unauthorized access” in their customer database from May to July. That access resulted in 145.5 million (44%) Americans’ personal information getting into the hands of criminals.
The information stolen contained people’s names, Social Security Numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some cases, driver’s license numbers. If that wasn’t enough, 209,000 had their credit card numbers stolen.
5 Tips To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft in 2018
We still don’t know the overall effect of the stolen Social Security Numbers. A big test will be the 2017 tax filing season. So, with that in mind, here are 5 tips that will help you protect yourself and family.
1 – File your taxes early.
34% of all identity thefts are from tax-related activity. Someone can use your Social Security Number to gain employment information or to file a fraudulent income tax return under your name.
The earlier you file, the less time a crook has to submit your taxes and claim your return.
2 – Place a credit freeze on your credit file.
A credit freeze (or, security freeze) will prevent anyone (including yourself) from opening new financial accounts in your name. Accounts like loans and credit cards.
If you decide to get a new loan or credit card, you will have to “thaw” your credit freeze to accomplish what you want. Then put the freeze back on. There is a small fee, but, it is minimal compared to the damage that can be done.
Credit freezes do not impact existing accounts.
3 – Monitor your bank and credit accounts carefully
Often times, crooks will deposit or withdraw a small amount of money to see if it raises any flags. If not, then your account will be set up to be hacked.
Make this a weekly, if not a daily, habit. Attention to what is going on in your account can help prevent, or contain, someone stealing your money.
4 – Place a fraud alert on your credit file
A fraud alert notifies lenders when it appears your identity has been stolen. Unlike the credit freeze, this alert doesn’t prevent illegal activity. It will let you know that something has happened with your personal information so you can react quickly to protect it.
The sad part is lenders aren’t legally bound to do anything to stop the fraud. That is why the next tip is important.
5 – Obtain a free copy of your credit report for monitoring AT LEAST once a year
You are entitled to one free credit report once each year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian). When you do, check to make sure there isn’t something suspicious. You can get free copies of your credit reports from annualcreditreport.com. This is the only free source authorized by the federal government.
With the credit freeze and a free credit report, you have the tools to keep your identity, along with your family’s identity, save.
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This information is intended for informational and educational purposes only and not as legal advice. If you have concerns about your credit report, harassment, identity theft, illegal collections activity, garnishments, or property liens, you should consult an attorney who specializes in consumer rights and defense.