Money Matters – National Consumer Protection Week: Avoiding Identity Theft
BOSTON (CBS) – Your name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, credit card numbers, ATM numbers and checking account numbers are floating around everywhere. You need to protect those numbers. So how does someone steal your identity?
Well for starters:
31% of identity theft cases are because your wallet or handbag was stolen.
15% happened when dishonest business employees steals your information from your files e.g., the hospital.
15% is attributed to family & friends. It’s called friendly fraud.
9% from stolen mail.
7% is because employees of your financial institution are dishonest.
7% from sales transactions.
5% because of hackers.
3% due to phishing.
1% due to dumpster diving.
Less than 1% (.3%) due to online purchases.
How do you prevent identity theft?
- Protect your wallet – it is full of important information
- Do not keep your Social Security card in your wallet
- Protect your Social Security number, give it out only when necessary
- Protect your credit card numbers
- Protect your pin numbers and change them often
- Shred mail and paperwork that contain your vital information
- Don’t leave mail in your mailbox for the mail carrier to pick up
- Make copies of everything you carry in your wallet
- Check your credit reports at least annually- there are 3 reporting agencies so get one free report every 4 months to keep a close watch on your report.
There were over 8 million identity thefts reported last year down from 11 million in 2009. Those numbers could be low for many people do not report the crime. Identity theft losses to businesses and financial institutions were over $49 billion last year. With identity theft it becomes the victim’s job to repair their damaged credit at an average cost of $631.
If your identity has been stolen, get on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website for the best information available:
- File a police report, they may not want the paperwork or the hassle but you need to do it. Get a copy of the report in case banks, credit card companies and others need proof of the crime.
- File a complaint with the FTC, or call 877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) which is a toll free number. The FTC has good information on their website on to how to handle an identity theft.
- Contact the fraud departments of one of the three major credit-reporting agencies and report that your identity has been stolen. Ask that a fraud alert and a credit freeze be placed on your file and that no new credit be granted without your approval. This may cost you up to $10 per company.
Equifax – 800-525-6285
Experian – 888-397-3742
Transunion – 800-680-7289
One more thing:
Ten Things the IRS Wants You to Know About Identity Theft
1. If you receive a letter or notice from the IRS which leads you to believe someone may have fraudulently used your Social Security Number, respond immediately to the name and address or phone number printed on the IRS notice.
2. If you receive a letter from the IRS that indicates more than one tax return was filed for you, this may be a sign that your SSN was used fraudulently.
3. Another sign that you may be the target of identity theft is an IRS letter indicating you received wages from an employer unknown to you.
4. The IRS has a department which deals specifically with identity theft issues. The IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit is available if you have been in contact with the IRS about an identity theft issue and have not achieved a resolution.
5. You can contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit by calling the Identity Theft Hotline at 800-908-4490 Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm local time (Alaska and Hawaii follow Pacific Standard Time).
6. The IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit is also available if you believe your identity may be at risk of being stolen due to a lost or stolen purse or wallet or due to questionable activity on your credit card or your credit report.
7. The IRS never initiates communication with taxpayers about their tax account through emails. If you receive an e-mail or find a Web site you think is pretending to be the IRS, forward the e-mail or Web site URL to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
8. The IRS has many more resources available to help inform taxpayers about identity theft on the IRS Web site at IRS.gov. On IRS.gov you can access information on how to report scams and bogus IRS Web sites. You can also visit the IRS Identity Theft Resource Page, which you can find by typing Identity Theft Resource Page in the search box on the IRS.gov home page.
9. The Federal Trade Commission is also available to assist taxpayers with identity theft issues. You can reach them at 877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338).
10. Visit OnGuardOnline.gov for protection tips from the federal government and the technology industry.