Identity theft occurs when someone steals your credit/debit card information, social security number, or any other type of personal information to pose as you and use your money. According to the Federal Trade Commission, 9 million Americans fall victim to identity theft every year.
Although this sounds like a large number, 9 million people only make up 3% of the population in America. Regardless of how few people are affected by identity theft, this does not negate from the severity of having your identity stolen. Below is a list that consists of ways to prevent identity theft from happening to you.
1. You could consider obtaining identity theft protection. But this may cost $150 per year or more. There are several measures you can take on your own that will cost you nothing to prevent identity theft. Most banks will alert you if they suspect suspicious activity on your account. If you do choose to have identity theft protection, some fraud alert companies may put automatic freezes on your account. In order to unfreeze your accounts, you will have to contact the banks that hold these accounts. Sometimes there are charges for freezing and unfreezing your account. These fees may vary by state.
2. Make sure to guard your private information online. Shopping online makes stealing people’s identity easier for criminals. To ensure this does not happen to you, try using these tips:
- Always clear your logins and passwords, especially if you are not using your own computer. It is advised that you change your passwords and usernames monthly.
- Make your online purchases with your credit card, under federal law, this ensures better protection than your debit card.
- Do not give your personal information to any advertisement or pop-ups.
3. Check your bank accounts regularly and your bank statements to ensure that no one has stolen your identity.
4. Always verify your address with the post office and any financial institution. In certain cases, identity thieves will fill out a change of address form to remain off your billing record.
5. Check your credit report frequently.
6. Shred your outdated, personal documents.
If you think you are a victim of identity fraud, notify your bank. You will also need to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and your police department.