Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Identity fraud is a growing problem and affected more people in the last year than at any time since data started being collected.  The data breach at Equifax last year is the highest profile case since it affected more than 145 million Americans.

Many other major companies have had large-scale data breaches including Anthem Blue Cross, J.P. Morgan, Home Depot, Target, and Sony.  More than 1,000 data breach incidents are reported each year from both large and small companies.  This national problem cost more than $16 billion in losses to businesses and individuals.

If someone is subject to identity theft, there are actions that can be taken to reverse the loss, but it can take a considerable amount of time and effort to fix things.  Following are some things you can do to help protect yourself and your family.

Request copies of your credit report annually.  Federal law requires each of the three national consumer credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, to give you a free report every 12 months if you ask for it.  A website has been set up at www.annualcreditreport.com to facilitate requesting the report from all three companies.  If not every year, everyone should periodically order their report to make sure there is nothing fraudulent.

Sign up for a credit monitoring and identity theft protection service.  Various companies exist to monitor your credit report and notify you if there are any new entries on your report.  One example is IDShield which not only informs you of any changes to your credit report but will also help fix any problems that occur.  The following hyperlink takes you to their site if such coverage is desired. Simply click IDShield.

Simple things you can do to stay safe… include avoiding clicking links in email messages from unknown sources. Don’t give out your Social Security number if called on the phone, and don’t throw papers with sensitive information out without first shredding them.  Clicking links to familiar websites can also be fraudulent as thieves can set up sites that seem to be authentic but are not.  Phone calls are sometimes made to individuals asking to confirm information from thieves that are “phishing” for your information. Never provide personal data or information to anyone whose identity and credentials are uncertain. Common sense and good judgment would have us err on the side of caution in today’s data-driven environment.