It would be wrong to suggest that having your identity stolen is an inevitable fact. For some people, it’s never an issue. But it would also be wrong to imply that anyone is immune from it. Thieves and hackers keep finding new and innovative ways to not only nab your personally identifying information, but also new ways to use it.
So if it’s bound to happen, what are you supposed to do about it? It’s not like you can stop it, right?
Yes and no. The nature of the online marketplace and internet communities that we live in make it almost necessary to have some kind of digital presence, making you a potential target for identity thieves. But you can take some key steps to preventing small problems from becoming big ones, and hopefully eliminating some of the threat.
Keep a close eye on your online accounts and your statements. Don’t blithely discard those statements—whether they’re paper or electronic—but take a close look at them to make sure you don’t see any unrecognized activity.
We all know to check our credit scores each year for any unexpected activity, but there are other red flags that can mean you should check it sooner. If you’ve been turned down for a rental application, a credit card application, or even a job, it could mean that someone has established credit cards in your name and is abusing them, ruining your credit and your good name.
Take notice of other times you may have been turned down for something unexpected, like a utility or rental car, or whether your existing rates have gone up. Has your car insurance premium increased unexpectedly, for example? Be sure to call your insurance provider and find out why. It could be related to speeding tickets associated with your name and insurance provider, which means someone out there is speeding and pretending to be you; even worse, if he doesn’t come forward to pay those fines, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. This same level of care should go to your medical insurance, so be sure to read those statements that come in the mail after doctor’s appointments and report any suspicious activity or claims for services you didn’t receive.
An even more troublesome rejection can come from trying to file for government benefits or submit your tax return, only to have those turned down as already being filed. That tells you that someone has your name and Social Security number, and is claiming your benefits or has just helped himself to your tax refund.
Luckily, there are resources available to walk you through the process of correcting the mistake if your identity has been stolen. But this is truly one of those times when the best offense is a good defense. Get in the practice of making your identity so difficult to obtain that thieves want to move on to the next guy. Keep tabs on your accounts and statements, guard your Social Security number and other private information, and be sure to shred any documents that you think might be valuable to someone intent on stealing your identity, including utility bills, bank and credit card statements, insurance statements, and more.
By making your information too difficult to steal and too easy to get caught with, you can hopefully help safeguard your identity before a crime happens, but being aware that no identity is completely safe can help you be on the watch for little signs that someone is trying to use your information.
If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center's Anyone3 fundraising campaign. For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3.