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10 Key Ways to Keep Identity Theft at Bay

Cyber thieves have become slicker and smarter about accessing your personal information.

Let’s define identify theft, the different theft types, and the ten ways to prevent it from happening in the first place.

What is Identity Theft?

Identify theft is a crime where a thief steals your personal information to impersonate you. The thief will do things like apply for a credit card, take your tax return or obtain medical services.

How is this Theft Detrimental?

Left unreported (and sometimes even when reported), it can ruin your credit rating, cost you money, and take a lot of time trying to restore your good name.

 

What are the Types of Identity Theft?

 

  1. Credit: This is where someone uses your existing credit card or opens a credit card under your name to purchase goods and services.
  2. Tax: A thief either falsely files a tax return under your name or steals your online tax return and diverts your refund to them.
  3. Medical: Someone steals your health insurance number to obtain medical services.
  4. Social Media: Someone takes your personal information and creates a phony account to lure your friends and family to the account with the intent to scam them out of money or set up a phishing scam.

 

How Can You Prevent Identity Theft?

While these suggestions will not guarantee you will never be scammed, they do go a long way toward helping prevent it:

  1. Never carry your social security card on your person. Instead, only give out your Social Security Number (SSN) when necessary. And NEVER convey your SSN in an email, put it on documents, or say it over the phone. This is the key to unlocking your identity.
  2. Don’t open suspicious emails, answer phone requests or fill out any forms with sensitive information.
  3. If you must fill out a form with sensitive information (credit card application, rental agreement, or mortgage application), be sure you read and understand the privacy notification. This ensures that the company or individual gathering your information will not share it with anyone else at risk of criminal prosecution.
  4. Never do any online banking, purchase goods, or open emails on public Wi-Fi networks. These are the most accessible networks to hack into and can leave you susceptible to hacking.
  5. Carefully review all your credit card and bank statements. If you see anything suspicious, report it immediately to the institution.
  6. Keep all sensitive data, including passwords, locked up in a safe.
  7. Keep your operating system, applications, firewalls, router firmware, and virus protection up-to-date at home and work.
  8. Consider signing up for an identity prevention company and have them monitor your bank and credit card activity. Then, select a service that monitors the dark web, often buying and selling this data.
  9. Check out the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection page about ways to prevent scams from happening to you.  
  10. When writing checks, do not put the whole account number on the “For” line.

 

What Should You Do if Your Identity is Stolen?

 

Here are the things you should do right away:

  • Report any case of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission via www.IdentityTheft.gov or call 1-877-438-4338.
  • If you know who stole your identity, contact the local police. Be sure to indicate how you see the thief and how they used your information.
  • If you experience health fraud, be sure to report this to your health insurance company.
  • If your tax return and refund are stolen, contact the IRS, Ohio Department of Taxation, and your local tax entity.
  • If your credit card is stolen, contact your credit card company.
  • If your social security number has been stolen, contact the Social Security Administration fraud department. You can also call them at 1-800-269-0271.

 

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