Fight Identity Theft through Knowledge
In order to effectively fight identity theft, it is important to acquire knowledge about this crime and learn how to protect yourself. Identity theft occurs when your information is illegally obtained without your knowledge and/or consent in order to commit various types of crime, such as fraud. The act of illegally obtaining a person’s personal information is considered to be a serious crime. Victims of such a crime often find that it costs a tremendous amount of time and money to recover from identity theft. Not only does it have the potential to destroy your credit, financial history, and financial future, it also has the ability to ruin the good name that you have worked to acquire throughout your lifetime. In this guide, you will learn many facts about identity theft. By knowing these facts and gaining an effective understanding of this crime, you will find that it is easy to fight identity theft so that you do not become the next victim.
The organization known as the Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN), which is part of the Federal Trade Commission, is responsible for collecting information about consumer-based fraud and identity theft from various organizations, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the offices of the Attorney Generals, and the United States Secret Service. In the year of 2013, the Consumer Sentinel Network had well over 2 million complaints from consumers. The analysis of the complaints resulted in establishing the following information:
- Identity theft resulted in 14% of all the complaints that were received by the organization.
- The most common type of identity theft reported for 2013 was fraud pertaining to government benefits and/or documents. This accounted for 34% of all complaints.
- Fraud pertaining to credit cards accounted for 17% of all complaints.
- Fraud pertaining to phone services and/or utilities resulted in 14% of the complaints pertaining to identity theft.
- Bank fraud accounted for 8% of all of the complaints related to identity theft.
- Fraud that was considered to be employment-related accounted for 6% of the complaints.
- Fraud pertaining to loans resulted in 4% of all cases of identity theft.
- Out of all of the complaints made in regards to identity theft issues in 2013, 41% of all the people that filed a complaint made a report that established whether or not they contacted their local law enforcement agency. Out of that 41%, 74% did, in fact, make a notification to law enforcement personnel, and 61% confirmed that a report was officially made regarding their complaint.
Identity Theft Behaviors
In order to effectively fight identity theft, it is imperative to know and understand the behaviors that constitute the theft of an individual’s identity. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey conducted in the year of 2004, the following behaviors were outlined:
- Unauthorized use and/or attempted use of credit cards currently in existence
- Unauthorized use and/or attempted use of accounts currently in existence
- The misuse of an individual’s personal information in an effort to open new accounts and/or to commit other types of crimes that are similar in nature
Signs of Identity Theft
In order to fight identity theft, you must learn the signs associated with the act. When it comes to facts about identity theft, the following outlines the most common signs that an individual or individuals have illegally obtained or acquired your personal information and are using it in an illegal manner:
- You may find that unexplained withdrawals are being made from your bank account.
- When using a check, debit card, or credit card, you may find that a merchant refuses approval.
- You may find that you are no longer receiving mail like you used to, especially mail such as bills and account statements.
- When viewing your credit report, you may discover unfamiliar accounts and unexplained charges in which you know you did not open or engage in.
- Medical professionals and/or providers may start to send you bills for services that were not rendered to you, yet, have your name attached to them.
- When making a claim on your health insurance plan, you are rejected because the company claims that you have reached the amount of benefits in which you are entitled for the year.
- You may find that a health plan insurance company denies you coverage because it states that you have a medical condition in which you have never been diagnosed.
- You may get a notification from the IRS explaining that numerous tax returns were filed in your name or that you did not report income from an employer in which you do not work with.
- A notice from a business or a company where you have one or more accounts may contact you to inform you that your information has been compromised.
How to Fight Identity Theft
Knowing the facts about identity theft is truly the first step to fighting against it. There are several other steps that may be taken to effectively fight identity theft. They are to deter, detect, and defend. The following outlines the measures that you may take to fight identity theft by preventing, identifying it happened, and defending yourself:
- Place a high level of protection on your Social Security card. This should never be carried in your wallet. Only provide this number if necessary. Otherwise, request to provide another identifier.
- Do not provide your personal information through the internet, through the mail, or on the phone, unless you are 100% certain you know who you are providing it to and you trust them.
- All documents with personal information, financial information, and other types of information that could result in identity theft should be shredded before thrown away.
- Avoid using passwords that are considered to be obvious, such as birthdays, names, and social security numbers.
- In your home, all personal and sensitive information should be kept locked away and in a secret location.
- You should use programs to keep your computer safe, such as firewalls, anti-virus protection, and anti-spyware software. You may visit OnGuardOnline.gov for more information pertaining to this topic.
- Avoid clicking on unsolicited links on the internet, in chat sessions, in text messages, and in emails.
- Inspect your credit report on a regular basis to ensure unfamiliar accounts and charges are not part of it.
- Review all financial statements associated with your accounts on a regular basis to detect any unfamiliar activity quickly.
- Fight identity theft if you suspect it by placing a “Fraud Alert” on all of the credit reports through Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
- If an account has been tampered with, close it immediately.
- If you have been a victim of identity theft, immediately file a police report.
- Once a police report is filed, make a report to the Federal Trade Commission.
- Visit ftc.gov/idtheft for more facts about identity theft and how to effectively fight identity theft.
As you can see from the facts about identity theft outlined in this comprehensive guide, it is very common for an individual’s personal information to become compromised. The most effective way to prevent this from happening in your life is to learn as much as you possibly can about identity theft and learn what steps may be taken to fight identity theft. By doing this, your knowledge alone has the ability to save you a tremendous amount of time and money. Identity theft is a serious complication that detrimentally impacts millions upon millions of people, worldwide, on an annual basis. Do not become the next victim. Learn how to fight identity theft today!