According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), there were approximately 17.6 million identity theft victims in 2015. That’s roughly 7 percent of the country’s adult population (aged 16 and older). In general, people are targeted in six ways: documents and benefits fraud, credit card fraud, phone or utilities fraud, bank fraud, employment-related fraud, and loan fraud.
Don’t wait until you become a victim to start protecting yourself. Start today by employing the following tips and strategies, which are proactive strategies to protect your identity and your financial future.
Safeguarding Against Financial Fraud
Most types of fraud are financially motivated (credit card fraud, bank fraud, and loan fraud). Unfortunately, the Internet has caused a significant uptick in the amount of fraud that’s committed per year. This is due to skilled hackers, lazy passwords, and lack of cybersecurity. Never trust anyone you don’t know in person with your identifying information. If you have been a victim of identity theft, including cybercrimes, you’ll want to report this information to the FBI and local authorities, whose workers are trained professionals in cybercrime investigation.
Credit card fraud is conducted both online and off. A thief could steal your card or (if he has access to your birthday and social security number) open new cards in your name. A credit fraud investigator is a professional who is trained to look into these types of fraud. They’re hired by banks, security companies, and government agencies. You’ll need one if you’re a victim of this crime, but your chances of not being a victim are improved if you take the following precautions:
- Use antivirus and anti-malware software on all your devices. Keep in mind, 25% of full-time or part-time workers in the U.S. who use a private devicemay not have any network security protection at all.
- Monitor your bank and credit card statements. You may even want to subscribe to a credit monitoring service that alerts you whenever there is a change in your credit report. CreditKarma does this for free.
- Ensure your post office only lists one address – your actual address – for you.
- Shred documents with identifying information on them before throwing them away.
Safeguarding Against Documents and Benefit Fraud
According to ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement), documents and benefits fraud makes up about 34 percent of all identity theft. It’s the most commonly reported fraud. Basically, it’s when someone creates identity documents using your personal information or a deceased loved one’s personal information. It could also be when someone uses your identity to forge a document or to blame you for a crime. Benefit fraud is when someone misrepresents you or impersonates you in order to gain government benefits.
If you’ve been a victim of document or benefit fraud, your only real recourse is to report the crime. You can report the crime to the FBI or ICE. Don’t wait until someone has manipulated the government and landed you in hot water; instead, protect your identity by always safeguarding your social security number and never share your personal identifying information. If someone was claiming you or your residence for benefits, call the department yourself to report that you’re no longer to be reported on the forms.
Safeguarding Against Utilities Fraud
It’s difficult to protect yourself against utilities fraud, which works in two ways: either the thief is using your name to rack up new bills or the thief is stealing your utilities by hooking lines up to your lines, and thus running up your bills. If you discover your bills are much higher than normal, contact your utility company and have them come around and check your lines.
Like other types of fraud, the easiest way to ensure you don’t become a victim is to keep your identifying information private. Check your credit report. Contact your utility companies and ensure they have only one account for you. And, never expose your utility information; this means, keeping bills secure and shredding them when you’re ready to dispose of them.
Safeguarding Against Employment Fraud
According to USLegal, “Employment fraud is an attempt to defraud people who are seeking or performaing employment by giving them a false hope of better employment with higher wages, which they are often desperately in need.” The secret to safeguarding against employment fraud is research. A simple Google search can teach you everything you need to know about a company or scam.
When it comes to fraud, protecting your identity is all about keeping a watchful eye and never trusting anyone with your identifying information. Even a jaded spouse or former friend may use your information against you; however, if you’re careful, you can avoid being a victim.