According to Experian, estimated 9 million people are victims of identity theft each year in the United States. Having been a victim, I can tell you that it is a scary situation in which to find yourself. Restoring your identity can be costly and time consuming. Here are a few tips on preventing and limiting damage sustained from identity theft. You can also check out the Federal Trade Commission’s website for other helpful information.
Prevent identity theft as best as you can:
- Protect your social security number from everyone. It should be on a strictly need to know basis from anyone other then yourself.
- Be careful responding to solicitations by email, many of them are scams aiming to steal your personal information.
- Store your social security card in a safe place, never in your wallet.
- If your personal information, such as your date of birth or social security number is requested by anyone, find out why it’s needed, where it’s going and what will be done with the information after it has been used for its intended purpose.
- Shred credit card applications or any other mail with personal information.
- Create strong passwords for your online accounts; you should aim to have alpha numeric, capitals and symbols in your passwords ranging at least 8-10 characters long.
- Check your credit report at least once a year. Dispute any inaccuracies on your credit report.
What to do if you have an identity breach:
- Report it to one of major credit bureaus immediately (one will report the breach to the other two). Ask that a Fraud Alert be placed on your credit profile, this restricts the obtaining of new credit accounts for a period of time.
Equifax: 1-877-576-5734; www.alerts.equifax.com
Experian: 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com/fraud
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com
- Notify your bank, credit card companies and your health insurance carrier. Have new cards issued or close accounts that have been tampered with.
- Report the crime to your local police.
- Notify your home insurance company, many companies offer services that help you repair your identity and cover some of the costs associated with restoring your good name.
- Document everything related to the incident.