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Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity theft is one of the most devastating and fastest growing crimes in the United States today.   According to the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC"), it is estimated that as many as one out of five Americans fall prey to becoming a victim of identity theft each year.  Over the past decade, more than 35 million people worldwide have been victims of identity theft as criminals are using mail theft, credit card skimming, computer hacking, email and telephone scams to make it the fastest growing crime in America. 

The FTC has estimated that victims of identity theft lose on average more than $5,000, making it important to learn how to protect yourself from becoming another victim.  Taking the adequate steps to protect your identity won't guarantee your safety but should give you some peace of mind. 

Step 1:  Look after your mail. 
If you know you are not available to collect your mail because you will be out of town, have your mail put on hold until you return or opt for a locked mailbox. 

Step 2:  Ensure your trash is trashed. 
Make sure to shred all important paperwork including insurance information, credit card statements, bank statements and credit offers prior to throwing them in the garbage.  Going through a trash can on the street for information (known as "dumpster diving") is the easiest way for your identity to be stolen, so shredding paperwork will protect your identity.   

Step 3:  Opt out of pre-approved credit cards.
You can opt out of pre-approved credit card offers by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688).  It is only too simple for a criminal to complete a preapproved credit card application from your mailbox with your personal information and start charging in your name.  Opting out of these credit cards will protect you from this risk.    

Step 4:  Review your credit history on a regular basis. 
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA") you are entitled to receive a free copy of your credit from each of the three major credit reporting agencies annually, order your copies to ensure the information reported is in fact accurate and belongs to you. 

Step 5:  Safeguard your Social Security Number. 
Do not carry your social security card with you and make sure it is in a safe place.  Most banks offer a safety deposit box free of charge to their customers and storing your social security card there is a great and responsible idea. 

Step 6:  Regularly change your passwords. 
While you do not want to have a password you cannot remember, make sure it not too obvious and try to change your passwords regularly.  Smart phone apps exist today that can be set up to remind you to change your passwords a few times a year to help protect your identity and confidential information. 

If you believe you have been the victim of identity theft and are interested in free case review, contact SmithMarco P.C.

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