Thievery has long-plagued society, however, the rise of identity theft has given theft new meaning. It’s bad enough criminals steal cash and valuables but when they take your identity, they steal your entire life. The numbers associated with identity theft statistics in recent years are staggering.
In 2016, a whopping $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers. Unfortunately, these criminals show no signs of letting up.
Steps to take if your identity was stolen
If you find yourself a victim of ID theft, you want to take quick action. First, immediately file a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and then call your local authorities so they are aware of what’s happened. Next, you’ll want to:
- Contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) to place a fraud alert on your credit report
- Call your bank or credit union
- Get a copy of your credit report and close any fraudulent accounts or ones ID thieves have tampered with
- Place a security freeze on your credit report to prevent thieves from trying to open new accounts
What will thieves do with my identity?
Identity thieves typically have many nefarious things in mind. The majority of them will commit employment, tax-related, or credit card fraud. It’s also common for them to use your information to commit further identity theft by exploiting your name to steal the identities of other people. Lesser common, but nonetheless happening, are frauds associated with phones, utilities, banks, loans, leases, and government benefits schemes. Some will even use stolen IDs to go on crime sprees.
I’ve taken actionable steps, what happens now?
Once you’ve taken the steps to protect yourself, watch all your accounts carefully and quickly report anything that doesn’t look right. Additionally, it might be tempting to share your woes on your social networks. Don’t do this. It’s okay to tell your friends (offline) you’ve been victimized, but don’t make it public.
“Advertising that you’re a victim lets other people know that a lot of your information is out there,” reports Tom’s Guide, citing expert Neil Chase, formerly with identity-protection service LifeLock. “You want to be careful about that.”
Being careful with your information both online and offline helps to prevent yourself and your family members from further victimization. Thieves can steal your ID online, but did you know they do it offline too? Think of all the valuable information sitting around your home – social security cards, birth certificates, tax records, just to name a few.
Many thieves would love to gain possession of these and other documents. Cash and credit cards can only go so far, but ID theft is a lucrative business, and often a largely-organized one. Be sure to safeguard the documents you need and shred the ones you don’t because thieves aren’t above searching trash cans, mailboxes, and even front porches.
To better protect your identity, you can also install home security to prevent thieves from breaking into your home. When it comes to options, monitored home security offers stronger levels of security over non-monitored security technology. If you’d like to learn more, Protect America can help! Give us a call for more details and a free quote.