According to the Federal Trade Commission, its number one complaint from consumers in 2014, was identity theft. This crime has been on a meteoric rise since the 1990s. You can blame computers and the internet for its stellar rise in the early years. Today, you can blame hackers who tap into otherwise secure data facilities of large name retailers. But really, there are other causes that fuel the flames of this crime. From what I see, these causes that feed the Identity Theft monster include:
- Payday loan companies selling people’s personal information;
- Carelessness by people in the handling and guarding of their own information;
- Betrayal by people who handle our information such as doctor’s offices, bank clerks and even some IRS people.
My identity was stolen. Most recently, my adult daughter called me and asked why I am asking her again, to friend me on Facebook. She discovered that someone had stolen my identity and was opening a new Facebook account with my information. Yep, my identity had been stolen. It’s my opinion that there are two kinds of people walking around; those who have had their identities stolen and those who will have it stolen. Just because I have crossed over does not mean that my identity won’t be stolen again. So how do you protect yourself? Here is a list of ideas that may help you avoid becoming an identity thief:
- Pull your credit report once a year and review it. You get a free pull of all three credit reports once a year from annualcreditreport.com. Alternatively, join a credit monitoring service. Look at the trade lines and make sure that there are no accounts opened in your name that don’t belong to Look at the bottom to see who has pulled your credit report. If you don’t recognize someone who has pulled it, you have been a potential ID theft candidate. Look at the contact information at the top. Are there address that have nothing to do with you? If so, you may have a problem brewing.
- Be Aware of your surroundings. I was sitting in a bookstore a few months ago, quietly in the café sipping my coffee. In the middle, was an older, if not crusty lady who pulled out her cellphone and called her daughter’s creditor in a loud voice and completely in different to the rest of us there, reading quietly. When she got the part of “I want to pay my daughter’s bill. I have a Mastercard….Ready?”, I jumped off my stool and uninvited, sat at her table and looked her straight in the eye. She said in an officious fashion “Can I help you?” I replied “Yes. I am ready to take down the digits of your credit card number. Please be sure to articulate the 3 digit code on the back.” She got the point and hung up. Today, you can’t ignore your surroundings.
- Take your birthday off of your Facebook profile. Today, identity thieves need 3 out of 4 pieces of information to steal your identity. Name, address, telephone and or the trifecta, your social security number. People who view your Facebook profile can sometimes see your name and address. Once they get your birthday, they may apply for credit online, posing as you.
4. Don’t give out your social security number just because someone asks for it. Just because someone asks you for something does not mean that you have to blindly give it. If your doctor’s office asks for your social security number, ask them why they need it. If you are paying cash or even if you have insurance, your doctor’s office just does not need that information.
- If you get approached online by a bank or government official, you are being scammed. The latest approach to tricking people out of their information is for others to pose as IRS agents, police officers or even your favorite shopping sites. No government official would approach you online. They send letters on official letterhead. Your banks and shopping cites will address you by your name and not “Dear Customer.” Finally, if anyone asks you to send them your ID and password for any reason (usually scammers ask for this to “verify your identity”) do NOT give this information out. The bank already has this information and certainly would not ask you for it. If you are gullible, then at ask the person who is asking for your information to call you and ask for their address and telephone number. Do NOT give out your address or telephone number if asked. If they are legit, they have this information on you anyway.
If you have been victimized by a debt collector or have items on your credit report that are incorrect, call or email Attorney Gary Nitzkin at [email protected] for a free consultation at (888) 293-2882. For more information about your credit rights as a consumer, visit our website at www.micreditlawyer.com for informative, how to videos on consumer financial protection. We are here to fight for you. Call us today! 888-293-2882.