Thieves can use this info to apply for credit, get phony tax refunds, or even get medical services on your health insurance. They can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit card, and open new utility accounts.
According to NBC News, 15.4 million Americans suffered identity theft in 2016, up 16 percent from the year before. And thieves stole $16 billion in 2016! One of the largest increases in fraud was in the use of stolen credit and debit numbers online and on the phone.
We checked around for advice on how you can prevent your identity from being stolen. We have talked about this before regarding your business where, among other things, you install firewalls and virus protection on your home computer.
Here are 10 Easy Things You Can do to Avoid Identity Theft
- Don’t give out your social security number unless it’s absolutely necessary. Don’t put it on your checks or carry your card in your wallet.
- The hacking that has dominated the political news since the presidential election was triggered by people clicking on an unsolicited email. Thing is, you didn’t win or inherit large sums of money from Nigeria. Don’t respond to these emails asking for your name, birthday, social security number, or bank account number.
- Don’t let people (called “shoulder surfers”) see you typing passwords on you cell phone or at ATMs.
- Collect your mail promptly and have the post office hold it when you’re away. That way thieves won’t steal your mail and get your info.
- If bills are late, contact the sender.
- Start comparing receipts with account statements. Keep an eye out for unauthorized transactions.
- Use a paper shredder before tossing receipts, offers, statements etc.
- Hide personal information at home so thieves won’t easily find it.
- Don’t use the name of your hometown, your birthdate, or you dog as your password. Create complicated passwords that can’t be guessed.
- Once a year, order your credit report. Make sure there are no accounts there you didn’t open.
What to Do If You Are a Victim of Identity Theft
There is a VERY helpful website that you should go to first if you’re a victim. It’s at www.IdentityTheft.gov and it helps you create a recovery plan. If you do this first, it will be easier to report the theft to the police.
Reporting your loss to Identity Theft will also automatically report it to the FTC. That will give you an ID theft affidavit. After you print that out, you can take it to your local police to report the crime.
Look for our post next week for a fuller investigation into what IdentityTheft.gov offers you on your journey to recovery.
Identity Theft Insurance
Many of our homeowners insurance carriers include an endorsement for identity theft. Ask us about it by calling 315.792.0000 or email here. If we don’t carry your homeowners insurance, that’s okay. We’ll give you a quote that includes the ID Theft endorsement.
Until next time,
Your SZW Team
PS In our next post, we’ll talk more about reporting the theft and IdentityTheft.gov.
SZW Insurance is your New Hartford area independent insurance agent. Call us for a quote on insurance for your home, car, business, or life at 315.792.0000. Or request a quote here.