February 1 – 5, 2021 is Identity Theft Awareness Week, and SobelCo wants to share some timely tips on recognizing and avoiding this insidious type of fraud that has been particularly widespread during the pandemic, and was the second most-reported consumer complaint submitted to the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) through the third quarter of 2020, with more than 900,000 complaints.
The types of identity theft reported to the FTC are categorized as credit card fraud, government documents or benefits fraud, loan or lease fraud, employment or tax-related fraud, phone or utilities fraud, bank fraud, and other identity theft. These thefts occur when someone steals personal information about you and uses it to commit fraud, such as filing false unemployment benefits claims, opening a credit card account, or filing a false income tax refund claim. Once discovered, it can take a great deal of time, effort, and money to resolve the negative impacts of identity theft on your credit and your life.
As with most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to identity theft. Vigilant practice of preventive and detective measures can save a lot of aggravation in the long run.
- Be a miser with your personal information. Don’t share data such as your social security number unless it is absolutely necessary, and feel free to ask how the recipient of that data why they need it and how they are going to safeguard it.
- Carefully monitor your bank and credit card statements to identify any unauthorized activity in a timely manner.
- Review your health insurance statements to ensure that the procedures billed were actually performed.
- If you are expecting a bill and don’t receive it, follow up to ensure that an identity thief hasn’t changed the address on the account.
- Shred documents that include personal or financial information.
- Obtain and review your credit report on a regular basis. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three main reporting agencies on an annual basis. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to request your free copies from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Request your credit report from one of the agencies every four months to continually monitor your credit.
The FTC is sponsoring a number of events throughout the week to educate the public about protecting your personal information, recognizing red-flag warning signs of possible identity theft, and what to do if identity theft happens to you. Check out the FTC’s calendar of events for more information on its webinars and other events.