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How to protect yourself against identity theft and respond if it happens

Identity Theft

Identity (ID) theft happens when someone steals your personal information to commit fraud.

The identity thief may use your information to apply for credit, file taxes, or get medical services. These acts can damage your credit status, and cost you time and money to restore your good name.

You may not know that you’re the victim of ID theft immediately. You could be a victim if you receive:

  • Bills for items you didn’t buy
  • Debt collection calls for accounts you didn’t open
  • Denials for loan applications

Children and seniors are both vulnerable to ID theft. Child ID theft may go undetected for many years. Victims may not know until they’re adults, applying for their own loans.

Seniors often share their personal information with doctors and caregivers. The number of people and offices that access seniors’ information put them at risk.

There are several common types of identity theft that can affect you:

  • Tax ID theft – Someone uses your Social Security number to falsely file tax returns with the IRS or your state
  • Medical ID theft – Someone steals your Medicare ID or health insurance member number. Thieves use this information to get medical services or send fake bills to your health insurer.
  • Social ID theft – Someone uses your name and photos to create a fake account on social media

Prevent Identity Theft

Keep these tips in mind to protect yourself from identity theft:

  • Secure your Social Security number (SSN). Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Only give out your SSN when necessary.
  • Don’t share personal information (birthdate, Social Security number, or bank account number) because someone asks for it.
  • Collect mail every day. Place a hold on your mail when you are away from home for several days.
  • Pay attention to your . If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
  • Use the security features on your mobile phone.
  • Update sharing and firewall settings  when you’re on a . Use a virtual private network (VPN) , if you use public wi-fi.
  • Review your credit card and bank account statements. Compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
  • Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards. This can prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
  • Store personal information in a safe place.
  • Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
  • Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases
  • Review your credit reports  once a year. Be certain that they don’t include accounts that you have not opened. You can order it for free from Annualcreditreport.com.
  • Freeze your credit files with Equifax, Experian, Innovis, TransUnion, and the National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange for free. Credit freezes prevent someone from applying for and getting approval for a credit account or utility services in your name.

Report Identity Theft

Report identity (ID) theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at IdentityTheft.gov or by phone at 1-877-438-4338.

Source: Hartford Social Share