Identity theft is a serious crime where your personal information—anything from your name or identity card number—has been hijacked by an imposter who intends to commit fraud in your name. With your identity card number, someone can easily obtain false lines of credit and rack up significant debt in your name. Identity fraud is a major problem, and it happens more often than you might think.
When it comes to major data breaches, one of the best identity protection habits you can have is to change your passwords on a regular basis. Make this a part of your monthly routine. Credit card information is seldom exposed in a data breach, but the same cannot be said for email addresses and passwords. Another simple step toward protection is to avoid using similar passwords, like password1 and password2. Mix it up.
Your mail often contains sensitive information, and criminals can obtain it by going through your trash. It’s important to destroy documents that include personal information before putting them in the garbage. Identity theft can also occur as the result of a lost or stolen wallet, in which case you should file a report with the police, as well as your bank and credit card companies.
Getting your credit report is an effective way to detect identity fraud. You can review your report for signs of suspicious activity, such as accounts opened in your name that you don’t recognise, or credit checks from banks and financial institutions with which you’ve never done business. This could be a sign that someone is applying for credit in your name. Better to catch them early. You can’t always prevent identity theft, but you can be proactive and minimise the damage. If you don’t review your credit report on a regular basis, months might go by before you find out that someone has stolen your identity. Imagine a collection agency contacting you about purchases you didn’t make, or the police showing up at your door with an arrest warrant for fraud you didn’t commit.
If you suspect that someone has stolen your identity, there are several things you need to do.
Report the theft
Report the identity theft to the police, and contact the company or financial institution where the fraud occurred. Inform them that a false account has been opened in your name. Use credit monitoring service Credit Report, Score & Alerts allows you to check your credit report as often as you like. It watches your credit reports and alerts you whenever there are critical changes to any of your accounts, such as new accounts being opened in your name.
Call the bank
Report the situation to the fraud departments of all of your financial institutions (any and all banks with which you do business or have current accounts).