America has a growing identity theft problem and no one is immune to the threat because thieves target people of all ages, even children. Often people donít know that they are a victim until they have been contacted by the police, denied credit or rejected for employment. Understanding identity theft and knowing how to protect your information is critical to avoiding future hardship and loss.
What is identity theft?
This is when a personís personal or financial information is used by another for personal gain.
Types of identity theft:
Criminal identity theft happens when an individual poses as another person when arrested for a crime. Financial identity theft is when another's identity is used to obtain credit, goods and services.
Identity cloning is when an individual assumes another personís identity in daily life.
Medical identity theft refers to obtaining medical care or drugs in someone elseís name.
Child identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America due to the fact that thieves have years before victims become aware that their information was stolen.
What information can be stolen?
Social media sites are a treasure trove for gathering personal identifying information such as street names, motherís maiden name, and other authenticating data. Also, personal and account information is often found in garbage cans or dumpsters, taken from mailboxes, stolen from purses and houses, and gathered through internet phishing scams and viruses on computers.
Keep your information safe:
Shred or burn personal and account information, get your financial statements electronically, and only give out social security numbers when absolutely necessary. Never disburse information to anyone who calls or emails you requesting such data, and always contact your financial institution through official channels to inquire about your accounts or to respond to any unsolicited contact.
If you become a victim:
Immediately place a fraud alert on your credit report, check your credit reports for any unusual information, create an identity theft report with Federal Trade Commission (FTC)-which will generate an Identity Theft Affidavit, and file a police report with that affidavit.
Where to go:
Visit the official government site for consumer protection at www.ftc.gov for comprehensive information on handling identity theft.