Identity theft is a serious issue that can drastically impact your life. But what exactly is this silent, but dangerous, crime and how can it affect you? If you don’t know about all of the consequences associated with identity theft and fraud, it’s time to brush up on the subject. There are many ways you can put yourself and your family at risk.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is when someone attempts to steal your personal information to commit fraud. The thief can use a variety of methods to obtain your sensitive information. Once they have your private information, they can apply for credit and ruin your score, all under your name. They can also file taxes and even get medical services! This can damage your reputation and cause your credit score to tank!
The warning signs of identity theft
It’s best to be on high alert if you notice suspicious activity. In particular, you should keep a close eye for the following signs. If you notice one or more, contact a law office.
You may receive a bill for something you did not purchase. Look at your credit statement and make sure that there aren’t any weird or suspicious charges. If you didn’t eat at a certain restaurant during the day in question, someone else might have stuck you with the bill!
You may also get denied for loan applications because someone else ruined your credit. Lastly, you may receive debt collection calls for accounts that you never opened.
Who should be wary of identity theft?
Children and seniors are particularly at risk. You may need legal help if you notice that a family member is in danger. However, the most worrying thing is that child identity theft can go undetected for years. They may not be aware of the crime until they are adults and try to apply for a loan on their own. Seniors are also at risk since they tend to share personal information with the people closest to them – such as their doctors and caregivers. This information can spread like wildfire and land in the wrong hands, placing the elderly individual at risk.
The different types of ID theft
Did you know that there are various kinds of identity theft? You could be at risk for several of these. You may need to speak to a financial advisor if that’s the case. Types of identity theft can include the following:
Tax ID related theft
This type of ID theft happens when someone uses your social security number to file your tax returns falsely with the IRS and the state. You will need to seek legal help immediately if you suspect that you’re a victim of tax ID theft.
Social media identity theft
This form of ID theft happens when someone uses your likeness on any social media platform. This can include Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
Medical identity theft
Lastly, you can also fall victim to medical identity theft if you’re not too careful. The thief will go to hospitals and request treatment and medications under your name.
How can you prevent identity theft?
Luckily, there are several ways that you can prevent identity theft and fraud. First, do not carry your social security card with you in your wallet or purse. If you lose these items, the person who finds your card can easily steal or sell your identity. You should also only ever give out your social security number when necessary.
Refrain from sharing your information
Don’t share sensitive information with strangers. This sensitive information can include your social security number, your birthdate, and your bank account number.
Make a good habit of checking your mail every day
You should also collect your mail every day. Do this, whether you live in a house or apartment! Your mail can never be too safe. If someone manages to break into your mailbox, they can easily steal your documents and obtain your information through this method. Don’t let your mail pile up!
Monitor your billing cycles closely
Next, make sure you are paying close attention to your billing cycles on routine transitions. Note when you’re getting charged and ho much you’re being charged each time. Contact an attorney if you notice that something seems out of the ordinary. Additionally, if your bills are late, contact the bank to get to the bottom of the issue.
Place a hold on your mail when you’re out of town
Planning on going on a vacation soon? You may want to place a hold on your mail. Leaving your mail in your mailbox can tempt thieves.
Keep your phone secure
Your smartphone is a hub of sensitive information. If you wish to maintain your privacy, then ensure you’ve taken the proper precautions when it comes to keeping your phone locked and protected!
Add a password that is difficult to guess. Furthermore, don’t leave sensitive information where anyone can find it — for instance, in the notes section.
Update the firewall settings when using public wifi
If you’re posted up at a cafe, working on a report, project, or anything else, ensure that you’ve updated the firewall settings before getting too comfortable. Using public wifi without proper protection is not advisable! A hacker can steal your information through the web!
Shred receipts and other documents
If you have documents plastered with sensitive information, make sure to shed everything! Don’t simply throw these documents in the recycling bin. Devoted hackers and criminals will dig through trash just to access these unshredded documents. However, if you tear these papers apart before recycling, no one will ever be able to tell what was on the sheet.
Store your personal information in a safe place
You can also try storing all of your personal files and records in s safe and secure place. Buying a physical safety is not a bad idea at all! Many people may think it’s extreme. But you never know, and it’s better to be overly cautious than not think about what can go potentially wrong when someone steals your social security number.
Don’t opt for simple passwords
It may be tempting to come up with a simple password. If you can remember it, you’ll never get locked out of your accounts, correct? The only issue with this is that if your password is not complex enough, you run into a long list of issues and horrible situations!
Use a password generator. These programs can come up with a random set of figures that no one else can guess. Your information will be safe. If someone manages to crack the code, you will need a bankruptcy lawyer if the hacker manages to drain your bank account!
Install virus detection on your computer
If you’re still worried about hackers tampering with your information, then consider installing virus detection software on your computer. This will allow you to stay safe anytime you’re browsing the web. You can also use a private server if you want to stay as safe as possible.
Have a professional file and sort your taxes for you
Having a pro do your taxes can also help you stay safe. Investing in an accountant can help you identify suspicious charges to your accounts. An accountant can monitor your credit reports at least once a year. Pull them up and take a microscopic look at them.
Report it as soon as possible
If you wish to protect yourself in an identity theft crisis, you will need to contact authorities right away. This situation tends to only get worse over time. For example, the thief can drain your bank account. They can also worsen your credit score and bring it down to such a low level that you’ll never be able to recover. Thieves may use your social security number and credit information to secure an expensive loan at a car dealership without your knowledge, which can keep you from being able to secure loans of your own later on.
What to do if you are experiencing identity theft
If you have fallen victim to this situation, then consider following through with these next few steps!
Identify the kind of theft
First, identify what kind of theft has been committed. This can help you think of a more solid gameplan for you to act upon.
Call the IRS to report your identity has been stolen
Call the IRS department and explain in great detail what has happened to you. Ask your bank to freeze all of your accounts, so the criminal no longer has access to your assets.
Change all of your passwords
Next, you will also want to change all of your passwords. Also, change your pins for credit and debit cards if you can!
Contact the fraud department a second time after following these procedures to see where you stand.
You will also want to place a fraud alert and check all of your credit reports. These reports are free, so contact one of the credit bureaus!
You can also choose to file a report with your local police department if you deem this necessary.
Report the theft to the FTC
As previously stated, you will have to report the fraud to the FTC after changing your passwords and calling your bank. You can complete an online form or call a number to alert authorities about your stolen identity.
Reporting the theft to the police
You will also need to report the theft to the police. When going down to the station, ensure you have a copy of your ID with you. You should also bring proof of your address, such as a rental agreement, mail, bill, or mortgage statement.
You should also bring proof that identity theft has taken place. You can bring bills that show charges you never placed on your cards. You can also bring IRS notices that may have turned up amongst all of your mail. Once you have spoken to an officer, ask for a copy of the police report for your personal records.
Close new accounts that are in your name
Next, you will need to close all of the new accounts you have opened under your name. Explain that someone has stolen your identity and ask the business to close your account with them. Then, as the business to send you a letter stating that fraudulent charges are no longer your responsibility. Keep this letter for your records. You will need to use it down the line.
Start correcting your credit
Now, you can begin repairing your credit score! Write to the three credit bureaus and explain that you have gotten your identity stole; make sure to attach copies of the police report and a copy of your letter from the Federal Trade Committee. Then, if the criminal has drained all of your accounts, contact a bankruptcy attorney.
Identity theft can be one of the most terrifying things you can experience. You will have no control over it. This is why you must find the right team of attorneys if you have to file for chapter 7 bankruptcy. Act fast, and you may be able to financially recover.