Identity theft touches millions of lives every year. Each year, nearly 15 million U.S. residents fall victim to identity theft, resulting in financial losses of over $50 billion. That is equivalent to 7 percent of adults having their identities misused at the cost of approximately $3,500 per case. How can someone just steal your identity? And what can you do to protect yourself?
It begins when someone claiming to be you, obtains a crucial piece of your personal information, such as a driver’s license number or Social Security number. Then they can impersonate you and obtain credit in your name to purchase goods or services. They can run up debt or even provide false identification to law enforcement, creating a criminal record in your name and possibly generating outstanding warrants for arrest.
For the victim, identity theft can start a chain reaction of trouble, including financial problems, credit issues, benefit losses, and legal problems. The worst part is these issues can continue to be a source of trouble for years to come.
Luckily, there are plenty of steps Americans can take to protect themselves against identity theft. The following is an checklist of ways you can safeguard your personal information:
– Protect Your Social Security. You absolutely must do this. Try opting for other forms of identification whenever possible.
– Systematically Shred Documents. Thieves have willrummage through trash in an attempt to obtain personal information. Shred all credit card statements, receipts, and other important documents before placing in the trash. Always place your outgoing mail in a secure mailbox, preferably at the post office.
– Store Sensitive Information Securely. Utilize a safe or lockable filing cabinet for storing and organizing important documents at home. Consider getting a safety deposit box to store extremely valuable and sensitive paperwork, such as passports, birth certificates, and marriage certificates.
– Organize Your Wallet. Before heading out for the day, think about what you will truly need- driver’s license, debit or credit card, checkbook, etc. Don’t carry a wallet full of sensitive items you won’t need anyway. In the event your wallet is stolen, you will have fewer cards to cancel.
– Use Fraud Alert. Many credit card companies offer fraud alert, either for free or a nominal fee. Use these programs whenever you can to be notified of suspicious account activity.
– Consider a Credit Freeze. If you don’t anticipate applying for credit any time soon, consider a credit freeze. This will prevent credit card companies and other third parties from viewing your credit report. Just remember to plan ahead and remove the freeze if you plan on applying for any new credit.
– Review your Credit Report. Check your credit report periodically so that you can be alerted to any suspicious credit card openings and fraudulent activity. Request a report from each agency every four months to maximize coverage: Equifax in January, Experian in June, and Trans Union in October.
– Create Intricate Passwords. Passwords that contain information easy for you to remember may also be easy to for thieves to crack. Avoid using information such as mother’s maiden name or graduation date. Try instead using subjective information, such as your favorite color. Take for instance the phrase, “my favorite color is purple.” Take the first letter from each word and add a character and a number for a truly unique password; “mfcip#1”. Add the initials of the website to the beginning of your password to make it different for each site you use. If you are an avid online shopper, consider opening a PayPal account so you don’t have to disclose your credit card information every time you shop.
– Purchase Identity Theft Insurance. This policy doesn’t minimize your risk of theft. It does, however, mitigate damage and facilitate the identity rebuilding process.
Contact Our Denver Consumer Protection Lawyers
If you or someone you love has been the victim of identity theft, it is important to speak to an experienced Denver consumer protection lawyer immediately. At the Gold Law Firm, our lawyers are ready to fight for you and your rights during this time. Identity theft is a scary and upsetting ordeal to go through. During this time, creditors may come collecting money – even when you aren’t the one who owes it. Let us help you during this difficult time. Contact Denver personal injury attorney Gregory A. Gold of the Gold Law Firm today for a free consultation at (303) 694-4653.