Identity theft can happen to anyone and occur in various ways. In 2018, there were 3 million fraud cases in the United States and over 400,000 cases of identity theft. In the age of online purchases, online banking, and even virtual tax returns, the internet poses the greatest threat to your personal information. The most common methods of identity theft are data breaches, phishing attacks, unsafe internet connections, mail theft, and weak data protections. These methods aim to accomplish the same thing – gaining enough personal information to steal your identity. If successful, the harmful consequences can be significant, wide-ranging, and last for years. Here's what you should know about the dangers of identity theft, the steps you can take to help protect yourself, and how the attorneys at Skeeters, Bennett, Wilson & Humphrey can assist you.
What Identity Theft Can Do: Why Protecting Your Information Is Essential
Identity theft can damage your credit score, prompt an IRS audit, and create a complex mess that takes years to clean up. The results of identity theft can be disastrous, even if you discover it before the thief causes substantial financial harm. There are numerous forms of identity theft, including financial identity theft, which involves a thief using your personal information to access your bank account or credit cards to make purchases or apply for new cards, and tax identity theft, which happens when a thief uses your compromised data to file a tax return--as you--and steal the return. Other types of identity theft include:
- Medical identity theft
- Employment identity theft
- "Friendly" or familial identity theft
- Elder fraud and estate identity theft
Tips to Help You Safeguard Your Personal Information and Prevent Identity Theft
Identity theft can happen even when you least expect it. Protecting your information is critical. The following tips can help.
- Theft protection services. Take advantage of an identity theft protection service, but don't solely rely on it to keep your information safe. Though such services can reduce identity theft risk, they can't eliminate it.
- Secure storage. Store your personal information securely, such as in a safe or locked filing cabinet.
- Social Security safety. Do not keep your Social Security card in your wallet, and only give out your Social Security number when it is absolutely necessary.
- Personal data. Do not share your personal information online.
- Mail and documents. Collect your mail regularly and shred documents before you throw them out to prevent someone from obtaining physical documents containing your personal information.
- Fraud protection. Check your bank statements frequently and inquire about charges you do not recognize. Use a fraud protection system from your bank. Many banks have built-in or opt-in fraud protection programs that temporarily freeze your bank account if a suspicious purchase or withdrawal is detected.
- Unsecured internet connections. Do not use unsecured Wi-Fi connections (connections without a password). Anyone can use these networks, and once your device is connected, someone else may be able to access personal information on your device from that connection.
- Passwords. Use various, complex passwords for the websites you visit to help protect against data breaches. When a company’s data is compromised, your username, password, and all personal information stored on that company’s website is also compromised.
- Firewalls and antivirus programs. Use an antivirus program and firewall on your computer and all other devices used to access sensitive information.
- Suspicious links. Do not click on suspicious links in spam emails or on websites. These links often contain viruses that can compromise personal information from your computer, including any data you have accessed from that computer, such as bank account information, address, name, phone name, and other details.
- Login info. Be cautious of entering login information on seemingly familiar websites if you were redirected there from somewhere else. Many copy-cat login pages attempt to steal information stored on your devices and the websites you visit.
- Credit score. Periodically checking your credit reports can help you catch fraudulent activity. Keep an eye out for charges you didn't make and new credit cards or other accounts you didn't open.
Skilled Legal Counsel for Central Kentucky Identity Theft Victims
Contact law enforcement immediately if you've been the victim of identity theft or fraud. Then, talk to an attorney.