Everyone needs to prevent identity theft. Identity theft can happen to anyone. Stealing someone’s identity can give a criminal access to bank accounts and savings, credit accounts, the ability to establish new lines of credit, and even receive medical care under another person’s name.
You can take steps to help prevent identity theft, identify if you have been a victim of identity theft, and steps to take if you are a victim of identity theft.
How To Prevent Identity Theft
There are several steps that you can take to prevent identity theft. You are encouraged to take as many precautions as possible. It is important to remember that you must be pro-active to prevent identity theft because it can happen in so many different ways.
There is not any single way to prevent identity theft 100 percent of the time, so it is important to take several steps to protect your information.
Invest in a Shredder
A major step in identity theft protection is investing in a home shredder. You want to make sure that you shred all documents that have your personal information on them. This includes bills and medical documents that you no longer need to save for your records. You should all offers that you receive in the mail, even if you have no intention of responding to the offer. Another way to protect your identity and credit line is to shred any catalogs mailed to you that have an account number or credit line already assigned to your name. Shred anything in these catalogs with that number or your personal information attached.
Freeze Your Credit
You can contact each of the three major credit reporting agencies and have a freeze placed on your credit. This will prevent anyone from establishing any new accounts under your name and social security number. It is free to use this service, and you can contact the bureaus at any time you need to establish credit for yourself and have the freeze taken off. You can then reestablish the freeze after you have opened your new line of credit.
Never Respond to Unsolicited Calls or Emails
One of the most important ways to prevent identity theft is to never fall for a “phishing” call or email. If you receive a call or email from any institution requesting personal or financial information, you should not respond directly to that contact. Go to the entity’s official website that is contacting you and make contact with them through the site. If the notice or request that you received were official, it would be attached to your account, and a customer service rep will be able to help you from there.
Clues to Understand that you are a Victim of Identity Theft
There are small clues that will let you know that you may be a victim of identity theft. Even with the best identity theft protection in place, you still may be a victim. Knowing what to look for can help you stop theft when it happens and prevent identity theft in the future.
Unusual Activity on your Credit Reports
You should always monitor your credit reports for unauthorized activity and errors. If you see new accounts being established, significant increases to your debt limit that you did not use, or changes to your personal information such as spelling your name or address on your credit reports, you may be a victim of identity theft.
Monitor Your Medical Bills
Identity theft protection is not just limited to monitoring your credit reports. You must also watch your health insurance bills and services. It is becoming more common for people to steal medical insurance information to get “free” medical care. Watch for bills coming in for services not performed or denial for claims for services you have not received. You should also monitor your yearly use amounts to ensure that they coincide with the treatments you receive.
Trouble Signing into Accounts
If you have found your sign-in or password changed on any of your accounts, it is critical to contact that institution to quickly protect your accounts.
Steps to Take if You are A Victim of Identity Theft
Even when you take every possible step to prevent identity theft, it can still happen. If this happens to you, you are encouraged to take the following steps:
Contact the Federal Trade Commission
The FTC has a page on their website dedicated to reporting identity theft and what you should do if you are a victim. Follow the guidelines on this page for the most help with identity theft.
To Prevent Identity Theft – File a Police Report
Identity theft is a crime, and you must file a police report documenting what has happened to you. This will give you proof that identity theft has occurred when working with creditors that may have been affected. This will also give the police information that identity theft is occurring in the area.
Contact the following Agencies
You will want to contact the following agencies to report the theft so that a freeze can be placed on your accounts:
Sadly, any steps you take at identity theft protection is not 100 percent guaranteed. Protecting your identity is an ongoing task that should never be overlooked. The only way to prevent identity theft from happening is to stay diligent and to take action when you suspect anything suspicious has occurred.
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