Are You The Next Identity Theft Victim?

According to socialsecurity.gov, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Recent security breaches at well known retailers like Target affect millions with much burden, inconvenience and paranoia.

For instance, my wife was the first to alert me of the last major security breach affecting Target. She advised that I check our credit card activity for suspicious activity. It was a good thing I checked as I noticed numerous charges spread throughout a few days totaling hundreds of dollars. Luckily, in this case, I was the innocent victim of marriage as all of the charges were confirmed and made by my wife. For millions of others identity theft is a harsh reality.

If you use a credit card, have a bank account, own a home, have health insurance, and/or use the internet you are exposed to the common non-financial types of identity theft.

  • Tax & Social Security number fraud
  • Health Insurance Fraud
  • Security Breaches
  • Drivers License Fraud

Though we are all at risk, the ideal victims are children, the elderly, disabled, and housewives.

The Identity Theft & Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 was the first time identity theft was categorized as a crime. Unfortunately, it is estimated that less than 1% of offenders are caught, and less than 10% of them are prosecuted.

It’s clear that we are not immune to being a victim, but, the question remains, what easy proactive measures can be taken to deter such incidents?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Monitor your credit reports. Federal law allows you to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company.The three credit reporting companies are Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
  • Protect your computers and devices with appropriate anti-virus software, anti-spyware and firewalls.
  • Don’t give out your personal information over the phone, unless you initiated the call.
  • Never click links from unsolicited emails regardless of how real they seem.
  • Don’t use obvious passwords for online accounts.
  • Invest in an identity theft protection plan such as LifeLock.
  • Download free apps such as Credit Karma and Credit Sesame for free alerts and monitoring.

What should be done if you are a victim of identity theft? Report it to all of your creditors and financial institutions with which you have accounts, review your credit reports and change all passwords. After all, someone out there might be buying things with your credit card, so don’t get stuck with the bill.