Fraud Prevention Series: 5 Steps to Take to Prevent Identity Theft
September 14, 2021
Identity theft continues to be a problem in the U.S. With identity scammers targeting relief checks and unemployment benefits in the last year, the Federal Trade Commission recorded a nearly 3,000% increase in identity theft reports over 2019. In this blog, we define identity theft and provide steps to protect yourself.
In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) IdentityTheft.gov website received 406,375 reports of the identity theft. Claimants reported their information was stolen to access a government document or benefit, including unemployment insurance. That represents an increase of 2,920% over 2019.
Fraud is expensive, too. Consumers recorded a loss of more than $3.3 billion to fraud in 2020, an increase of $1.8 billion over 2019, according to the FTC.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal data to access your financial accounts, establish new credit lines, sign up for utility service, file for a tax refund under your name, get medical attention using your insurance information, or even provide law enforcement your name and address if arrested.
Preventing identity theft
Take these five steps to protect your personal information:
1. Keep your Social Security number safe
As the master key to your sensitive data, your Social Security number must be secured.
2. Watch for phishing and spoofing attempts
Fraudsters may call or email you from a number or email that appears to come from government entities or familiar businesses. Instead of responding, visit the official website to contact the organization directly to confirm. And be cautious with attachments — they can contain malware.
3. Use your financial institution’s mobile app alerts
Many financial institutions allow members to set alerts so a text or email will be received when transactions are made on their accounts.
4. Securely shred sensitive documents
Make a practice of shredding any credit card, financial statements, or preapproved offers for credit and dispose of these items in a secure way.
5. Review financial statements and credit reports
Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free credit report from one of the three major credit reporting bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – every four months. Make it a habit to review financial statements for any discrepancies.
These five easy steps can help you reduce the likelihood you will be a victim of identity theft.
Tags: Fraud Prevention Series, Tips and Tricks, Savings