The Protect principle means taking precautions about your financial situation. It stresses the importance of accumulating savings in case of an emergency, and buying insurance. Be vigilant about identity theft, and keep aware of your credit record and the credit score.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, such as your credit card number or driver’s license or social security number, to pretend they are you. Someone who impersonates you using your personal information is likely trying to steal money or gain unauthorized access t something, such as a loan or perhaps even a job. Ultimately, they are attempting criminal acts-but doing so in your name.
How can identity theft occur?
Identity theft can occur when you least expect it. Perhaps you leave some personal documents that have your name, address, phone number, and social security number in a public place, and someone comes into possession of them.
Or perhaps you are on a computer at a public location and using an Internet connection that is not secure. You enter some personal information: name, password, bank account numbers. Someone may be able to intercept this information.
Or perhaps someone you do not know writes you an email directing you to a website where you are asked to enter your personal information.
Or perhaps someone sifts through your trash or your mailbox and steals some documents that have your personal information on them.
It can occur in countless ways. The common theme is that thieves are looking for your personal information.
What do thieves do with a stolen identity?
The thief can do a tremendous amount of harm if he or she comes into possession of your personal information and attempts to impersonate you. They can seek to buy items in your name via phone or the web. They can apply for loans in your name. They can establish accounts with retailers and fitness clubs, leaving you responsible for the bill.
How can I find out if my identity has been stolen?
The best way to keep an eye on your identity is to periodically request a free copy of your credit report. There are three major credit reporting agencies that keep track of your credit profile. You will be able to see whether any unauthorized accounts have been opened in your name, or whether there is any suspicious activity. The website annualcreditreport.com enables you to request your credit report-for free- once every 12 months from the major credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
What can I do to prevent identity theft?
There are some basic principles that can help you avoid becoming a victim of identity theft:
- Safeguard your personal possessions
- Shred or destroy personal documents rather than tossing them in the trash or recycling bin.
- Do not respond to suspicious emails directing you to a website or asking for your personal information
- Avoid providing personal information such as banking information while on a public computer or at a free Wi-Fi location.
- Periodically get a copy of your credit report to see if there is any unauthorized activity in your name.
- The website annualcreditreport.com enables you to request your credit report-for free- once every 12 months from the major credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
If someone has committed a fraud against me, what should I do?
If someone committed a fraud against you, report it to the police. A police report will help you as you seek to clear up unauthorized use of your name and any credit or bank account. You will also need to contact the merchants or establishments that thought they were doing business with you, explain what has occurred, and begin the process of clearing your name.
What if the information in my credit report is wrong? Can I fix it?
You can dispute inaccurate information on your credit report by contacting the credit agency and proving the documents and information that are needed to explain why the information they have is inaccurate. You can also go directly to the source of the inaccurate information, such as a bank, and dispute the claim with them, and request that the inaccurate information stop being communicated to the credit agencies.
Actions You Can Take
- Keep your financial records in order.
- Watch out for fraud and scams, and protect your identity.
- Choose insurance to meet your needs, including health care insurance.
Hints and Tips
- A good system for keeping personal money records will include copies of important documents like your will, property ownership documents, information about savings and insurance, and other document. It should include overview of what happens to property after a major life event occurs.
- Assume that any offer that “sounds too good to be true” – especially one from a stranger or an unfamiliar company --- is probably a fraud.
- Look at your bank statements and bills as soon as they arrive and report any discrepancy or anything suspicious, such as an unauthorized withdrawal or charge.
- Be wary of request to “update” or “confirm” personal information, especially your Social Security number, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, personal identification numbers, your date of birth or your mother’s maiden name in response to an unsolicited call, letter or email.
- Managing Household Records
- Deter, Detect and Defend Against Identity Theft
- Get Help Finding and Using Health Insurance
- Tips on Homeowner and Renter’s Insurance
- Protecting Financial Privacy in the New Millennium: The Burden is on You
- Privacy enforcement and protection
- California Identity Theft Laws
- How Many Identity Theft Victims Are There? What is the Impact on Victims?
- New Privacy Laws Mean More Information and More Choices for Consumers