Identity theft reports have skyrocketed during the last five years, and credit card theft remains the most common, according to new statistics. According to the report, it is estimated that as many as one out of three Americans fall prey to becoming a victim of identity theft each year. Identity theft can include criminals using mail theft, credit card skimming, computer hacking, and email and telephone scams. The Federal Trade Commission has estimated that victims of identity theft lose on average more than $5,000, making it important to learn how to protect yourself from becoming another victim. Taking adequate steps to protect your identity won’t guarantee your safety but should give you some peace of mind.
Step 1: Look after your mail. If you know you are not available to collect your mail because you will be out of town, have your mail put on hold until you return or opt for a locked mailbox.
Step 2: Ensure your trash is trashed. Make sure to shred all important paperwork including insurance information, credit card statements, bank statements and credit offers prior to throwing them in the garbage. Going through a trash can on the street for information (known as “dumpster diving”) is the easiest way for your identity to be stolen, so shredding paperwork will protect your identity.
Step 3: Opt out of pre-approved credit cards. You can opt out of pre-approved credit card offers by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688). It is only too simple for a criminal to complete a preapproved credit card application from your mailbox with your personal information and start charging in your name. Opting out of these credit cards will protect you from this risk.
Step 4: Review your credit history on a regular basis. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) you are entitled to receive a free copy of your credit from each of the three major credit reporting agencies annually, order your copies to ensure the information reported is in fact accurate and belongs to you.
Step 5: Safeguard your Social Security number. Do not carry your social security card with you and make sure it is in a safe place. Most banks offer a safety deposit box free of charge to their customers and storing your social security card there is a great and responsible idea.
Step 6: Regularly change your passwords. While you do not want to have a password you cannot remember, make sure it is not too obvious and try to change your passwords regularly. Smartphone apps exist today that can be set up to remind you to change your passwords a few times a year to help protect your identity and confidential information.
If you believe your bank account has been hacked and you have been the victim of identity theft and are interested in free case review, contact SmithMarco, P.C. at 888-915-0836. We can help you understand how to dispute a transaction with your bank or credit card company and whether you have a case. With offices in Chicago and Sarasota, we represent individuals throughout the United States. We have recovered more than $1 million for our clients in unauthorized bank transactions.