I’m a victim of Identity Theft: Ways to prevent it from happening to you

I became a victim of identity theft back in 2009. That was one of the worse days of my life.  I felt helpless, violated and angry. Even though I know that 1 in 4 people will either experience identity theft on a personal level or they know someone whose experienced it…I still never thought it would happen to me.  I mean, I’m pretty careful with my credit cards and I check my bank accounts a couple of times a day.  I always try to shred mail and other documents that have pertinent information on them.  How in the world could this have happened to me?

So you can imagine how shocked I was to learn that someone had stolen my identity by filing a bogus federal tax return in my name. Because we live in the technical age this type of identity theft has become more common.  To make matters worse, the IRS is aware that this type of identity theft exists but is doing little to stop or prevent it.

Tax return fraud is just one of the many types of identity theft that’s prevalent today and as you read this, thieves are searching for cleverer ways to commit this crime. Don’t let it happen to you…take strategic steps to protect your identity.

Below are some tips on the types of ID Theft and ways you can prevent this from happening to you.

Types

Social Security Number – Thieves can use your SSN to open all sorts of credit in your name from a car right down to a house.  This is one of the most popular types of identity theft.

Credit Card – Be careful who you give your credit card to, especially when shopping on-line and over the phone, not to mention, at restaurants and the mall.

Driver’s License – Thieves can commit a crime and use your driver’s license as their identity which could result in you ultimately being arrested for a crime you did not commit.

Medical Records – Believe it or not, thieves steal this especially when they don’t have medical insurance.  Not monitoring your medical reports periodically could have dire consequences especially if you receive the wrong medication or blood type.  Don’t let this happen to you…stay on top of your medical records.

Tax Return – This is becoming more and more common these days mainly due to the increase of Illegal Immigrants in the U.S.

Financial Records – Thieves can steal bank statements, checks and other financial records right out of your mail box.

Other – Beware of phishing emails that try to persuade or scare you into checking your credit cards and/or bank accounts, etc.  The thieves are waiting to record your account info and passwords if you fall for this.

Ways you can protect yourself

Purchase quality identity theft protection – There are so many companies that offering Identity Theft Protection that it’s hard to know which ones are of quality.  One way to tell is to ensure that the ID theft protection monitor not only your credit report and the other normal stuff such as bank and credit card accounts but that it monitors your driver’s license, medical records and tax return.  Also ensure that they give you regular updates on a monthly basis even if they don’t find anything.  Another good thing to look for in a competent ID theft company is whether or not they offer some sort of assistance if you do become a victim.  It can be discouraging trying to figure out what steps to take on your own.

Shred pertinent documents – Make a good habit of shredding all documents that have pertinent information on it such as SSN, credit cards, bank accounts and other info or put these documents in a safe place such as a locked file drawer.  Thieves do look through trash.

Pay with cash as much as possible – It’s a smart idea to pay with cash as much as possible especially when at a restaurant and other similar places.  Don’t under estimate waiters and cashiers.  Thieves come in all sorts of packages.

Audit your bank and credit card accounts regularly – Even though you might have identity theft protection, it’s still a good habit to check your accounts on a regular basis because you never know when the thieves will strike.  Doing this will allow you to cancel your credits cards and bank accounts immediately instead of waiting for the ID theft company to call you, which could take hours or days.

Protect your computer – Use caution when using the internet by making sure that you purchase some good virus or security protection that will keep hackers, malware, and other harmful viruses away.  Identity theft through the internet is very easy and ramped.  Select strong passwords for your email, credit cards, bank statements and any other personal accounts that you check via the internet.

Steps to take if you become a victim of Identity Theft

Alert Law Enforcement – Identity Theft is a crime.  File a police report immediately.

Cancel or close accounts – Depending on what type of identity theft has taken place, it’s a wise choice to close or cancel your accounts or have new account numbers issued to prevent further damage.

Freeze your credit– This may be time consuming and a pain but it is very important.  You can freeze your credit report at all three major credit bureaus for little or nothing.

File a report with the Federal Trade Commission – If you become a victim of identity theft, many banks and other companies will want you to file a report with the Federal Trade Commission.  The FTC strives to protect consumers by helping to prevent fraud, deception, and unfair business practices in the marketplace.

Being a victim of identity theft has caused me a lot of heart ache and pain….I wouldn’t wish this type of thing on anyone. To this very day, I am still suffering the side effects.  Unfortunately there’s no quick and easy remedy to prevent identity theft, however, being aware that it does exist and implementing some or all of the tips above, can deter or prevent your identity from being stolen.

Are you a victim of or know someone whose experienced identity theft?  If so, tell us your story.

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