Identity theft occurs when an individual’s personal information (name, address, Social Security number (SSN), credit/debit card information, etc.) is used to commit theft or fraud without their knowledge. Your information can be sold online or in-person and be used to file fraudulent tax returns, obtain credit reports, access bank accounts, create IDs or apply for loans.
What steps should I take if I am a victim of identity theft?
How can thieves get my personal information and how can I prevent it?
Social Engineering/Phishing Scams
There are various phishing and social engineering scams that target victims by phone or email claiming that they are from a legitimate company and need to update your account information, issue you a refund, remove a virus on your computer, etc. Never provide personal information over the phone or via email. If you believe the caller or email isn’t legitimate, trust your instinct and contact the actual company directly to verify the request.
One of the easiest ways a thief can gather information about you is to dig through the trash. Never throw out anything that has your account numbers or personal information on it without shredding it first. Using a crosscut paper shredder will prevent the thief from pasting strips or credit cards back together to get your personal information.
There are many vulnerable items containing your personal information that you put in your mailbox every day. If you are going to be out of town and don’t have a locked mailbox, contact the United States Postal Service (USPS) at 800.275.8777 to request your mail be held or visit their website. When mailing items that contain personal information or checks, mail them in a sealed mailbox or drop them at your local post office.
Using Wireless Networks
Be cautious when using your laptop or mobile device on a free wireless network (coffee shop, retail store, etc.) as the network is usually not secure. A cybercriminal may be able to view personal information that is being sent or received on the wireless network. Only use your laptop or mobile device on secure wireless networks.
Personal Documents At Home
Checkbooks, bills and financial statements may be stored in your top desk drawer or perhaps piled up on your kitchen counter. Secure personal information in your home in a file cabinet or safe, especially if you have others living with you, hire outside help or are having service work done in your home.
Remember to only carry what you need. Don't carry extra credit cards, your passwords, your Social Security card or passport in your wallet or purse.