Given the number of privacy-related events in 2013, it’s no surprise that Dictionary.com named ”privacy” as word of the year. Privacy and protection from identity theft go hand in hand. Identity theft is a major problem that is growing each year. Criminals can use your name, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal or account information to steal your identity.
You can minimize the chances of being an identity theft victim by:
- Being aware of when and how you give out your personal information
- Giving information only when necessary
- Monitoring your accounts and credit records
Security experts recommend taking these steps if you suspect that your personal information has been compromised.
1. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends placing an initial fraud alert on your credit file by contacting any one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies. The alert will stay on your credit reports for 90 days.
2. Obtain a free copy of your credit report from one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies through a jointly administered website. Carefully review your credit report, credit card statements, and other personal financial account information for suspicious activity such as new accounts you did not open or purchases you did not make. If you see new accounts or other suspicious activity, consider taking these additional steps:
- Place a fraud alert on your credit file, if you haven’t already done so.
- Close accounts that you believe have been tampered with.
- File a complaint with the FTC.
3. If you find your personal information has been used to commit a fraud, file a report with your local police department. Obtain a copy of the report in case you need to send it to creditors that require evidence that you allege a crime has occurred.
4. Periodically obtain a copy of your credit report. You are entitled to receive a free credit file disclosure once every 12 months from each of the three agencies listed above.
To view more tips and advice to protect your personal information, visit STOPTHINKCONNECT.org.
Submitted by Helen Kyrios