Identity theft is a very serious crime that could have devastating consequences to a victim. It is when a criminal steals the identity of a person and uses his or her identity to make fraudulent purchases, obtain services and open credit card accounts in their name. Criminals target bank account, credit card, social security and medical insurance numbers to commit fraud. They will also use names and addresses so that they can open bank accounts and credit cards using other people’s names and addresses.
Identity thieves may also use an ID that they have stolen if they got arrested. They can provide false identification to law enforcement officials, which would then create a criminal record for the victim.
Identity theft can result in the loss of money through unauthorized purchases and transfer of money to the criminal. It can also ruin a person’s credit history through the opening and use of unauthorized credit cards accounts. A criminal record may also appear through identity theft as criminals try to cover their tracks using stolen IDs.
How Can I Protect Myself From Identity Theft?
The best way to protect yourself from identity theft is to sign up for an identity theft protection service and to take precautions when someone asks you for personal information. Shred or destroy paper that may contain personnel information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers and your name and address instead of just disposing it. Many identity thieves resort to “dumpster diving” where they will rummage through trash cans in order to try and find personnel information that they can use to carry out fraud. Be aware of your surroundings in public places and stores. Crooks will a technique called shoulder surfing to try and spot personnel information you may be writing down at a government agency or store when filling out applications. Shield your application with your body or cover it with your hand so that nobody can snoop and see it.
Don’t fall victim to email and phone scams. Companies will never ask for personnel information through email such as your login credentials or social security number. If you get an email from someone claiming that they are from your bank and they need your username, password or social security number it is a scam and you should report it. Phone calls that ask for personal information should also be treated the same way and reported.
What Can Victims of Identity Theft Do To Minimize Damage?
If you have been the victim of identity theft there are several things you can do to limit the damage done. The first thing you should do is contact one of the three credit reporting companies and tell them that your identity has been stolen. A fraud alert can be placed under your name and this will help prevent further unauthorized transactions. You should then review your credit report, which will be available for free for victims of identity theft. If you spot any unauthorized accounts in your report, contact those companies and tell them your identity has been compromised. File a complaint with the FTC by phone at 1-877-438-4338 or online at ftc.gov/complaint. Once you have completed your complaint and have an identity theft affidavit, take it to a police station and have a police report filed. The affidavit and police report together constitute a identity theft report which proves that you were a victim of identity theft. It can help you in settling debts and restoring your credit score.