Car safety does not just apply to how you drive. It also applies to what you leave behind. Our vehicles can often feel like a home away from home, especially for busy people with a lot on their plates. At any given time, your car might contain a change of clothes in your gym bag, some snacks or your lunch, a few extra water bottles that were supposed to go in the house and other random supplies that see us through the day.

While there is little harm in leaving some band-aids and spare change in the car, there are certain items that should not be left in a vehicle. Medicines, food, important papers, documents and even your devices should never be unattended, even in a locked vehicle.

Unfortunately, this practice is all-too-common, especially in the connected-everywhere world we live in. Leaving laptops, tablets, smartphones, wallets and even GPS-based devices in your vehicle can have disastrous results if an identity thief helps themselves. Here are some things to do when considering car safety:

Safety First

All concerns about your identity aside, keeping these kinds of items in your vehicle can be a problem in a collision or other kind of accident. A briefcase or electronic device on your front seat can become a projectile under the wrong conditions. A heavy backpack or briefcase can also trigger the airbag sensor in your car, making a minor accident in which the driver’s airbag deploys even more expensive if the passenger-side airbag goes off needlessly.

Enact car safety and lock up all bags and devices that are not actively part of operating the vehicle. Stow them in the backseat if there are no passengers back there, or put them in the trunk or rear of the vehicle.

Keep It Secure

If your laptop or mobile device is stolen, replacing the expensive device might be the least of your worries. Keep a thief out of your email account, retailers’ apps and social media accounts by passcode protecting your device. After too many failed attempts, the device will become useless and your information will be safe.

Paper or Plastic?

You might think a stack of paper is useless to anyone—except for the employee who is bringing home paperwork to do. However, an identity thief might help themselves to those documents in hopes of stealing personally identifiable information after breaking out a window in your car. Exercise car safety and keep them out of sight where they cannot tempt a potential criminal.

Handbags Are Begging to Be Stolen

The rise of mobile payment apps means that our shopping just got a little more hands-free. The ability to pay with our phones means no more lugging a giant handbag or an overstuffed wallet with us. However, leaving your handbag or wallet in the car is a bad idea, even if it does not contain anything a thief can use. Just seeing it might be enough for someone to break the window and snatch it up, leaving you with a headache and a hefty repair bill.

Heading into the New Year, take a few moments to think about car safety habits that can lead to identity theft and other crimes and those that can help you reduce your risk. Here is wishing an identity-safe holiday season for us all!

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) and the Identity Theft Resource Center are teaming up for a very important public event on Twitter.

International Fraud Awareness Week Nov 17-23

The two organizations have partnered to help consumers understand what is fraud, how to recognize a potential fraud attempt, and what to do about it.

This year’s week-long event focuses on the theme, “Who Is Responsible For Fraud Prevention?” The very short answer to this complicated question is: All of us! But without the proper tools and awareness, it can be hard to uncover and protect yourself against fraud attempts and related crimes. Whether you’re an industry professional, a public or consumer advocate, a lawmaker or law enforcement professional, or just someone who wants to know how to protect themselves and their privacy, this event is for you.

For more info:

Join the #FraudWeekChat on Twitter Nov 20

A Twitter chat is an open conversation on the social media platform that anyone is able to join in. In order to read others’ tweets from the chat or contribute your own, you simply add the specific hashtag to your posts or search for it to read. The hashtag, #fraudweekchat, will allow you to see others’ comments and questions, even if you do not currently follow them on Twitter, while also allowing them to see your remarks.

Anyone who has a vested interest in recognizing and preventing fraud attempts—which really means everyone!—is welcome to participate. Simply log into your Twitter account on Wednesday, November 20, at noon ET / 9 a.m. PT, and be sure to follow both the ACFE (@TheACFE) and the Identity Theft Resource Center (@IDTheftCenter) for up-to-date information all year long. Remember to use the #fraudweekchat hashtag by typing the pound symbol and the words at the end of your tweets. Note: If you raise a question that is unanswered, please repeat it; it may have been overlooked in the high volume of traffic during the chat.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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Can you handle this? 👑 🐝

We’re excited to announce that we have switched our social media handles to @IDTheftCenter and we thought we’d drop the news like a Beyoncé album.

Be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn for tips to protect your identity, news regarding scams and data breaches, and upcoming events.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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Depending on where you live, your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft may increase, according to a new study by WalletHub. The study tracked three different avenues of this kind of crime and ranked each state by its prevalence in those areas. All fifty states and the District of Columbia were then assigned a ranking for each of the three areas, plus a combined overall score.

Top States for Identity Theft

Surprisingly, one of the longstanding frontrunners for identity theft just barely made the top ten. For many years, Florida has been one of the worst states for this crime, both in terms of total numbers of victims and in total the amount of money lost. According to these new findings, Florida is ranked 10th overall.

The factors the team used to come up with their scores included the number of per-capita identity theft complaints, per capita fraud complaints and the amount of money lost to these crimes per capita. When comparing the states with the highest numbers of issues to the states with the lowest numbers, they also discovered the difference between the highest and lowest was often exponential. Some top five states were twice as likely to have incidents as the lowest five. In some categories, the most vulnerable states were even five times as likely to experience this crime as the bottom five states.

The District of Columbia topped the list for the overall combined score. It was followed by California, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Delaware, Louisiana, Texas, New York and Florida. Strategically, these states have very little in common in terms of location, population size or even income level. It goes to show that identity theft can be a crime of opportunity and intention rather than targeting.

You might breathe a little easier if you live in Missouri, Maine, Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Vermont, Wyoming or Kentucky. They ranked numbers 42 to 51, with Kentucky being the least vulnerable for identity theft. However, that does not suggest that residents in those states can let their guards down. It just means that they are less likely to be victimized than residents of other states, and not completely free of this crime.

No matter where you live, though, you can take proactive measures to reduce your risk of identity theft-related attacks. Freezing your credit report, practicing good password security, being mindful of oversharing your personal data and getting a good grasp on how to spot phishing attempts are all excellent ways to work towards a more secure identity.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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One of the most baffling forms of identity theft and fraud is synthetic identity theft. This crime occurs when a would-be thief assembles an identity from stolen or assumed parts. It might be a name and birthdate gleaned from a computer record, an address made up on the spot, a Social Security number (SSN) concocted or stolen from a database of unissued numbers and an email address that has not been used in years.

Creating Frankenstein’s Digital Monster

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, the volume of PII exposed in data breaches increased by 126% between 2017 and 2018 to more than 446 million records exposed. Marketplaces on the dark web then sell these breached records and by piecing it together, these random and disconnected pieces of information come alive to create a whole new non-existent person, one that credit reporting agencies and lenders have never heard of.

Much like Frankenstein’s monster, whose body (and therefore its’ identity )was created from various corpses’ parts, this new identity is out there in the world causing chaos and wreaking havoc, and no one knows how to locate it. Unfortunately, the very mechanism that is supposed to stop fake or erroneous credit applications from going through is the actual method criminals use to make it work.

What Comes Next

Once they have their Frankenstein identity in hand, the criminal begins filling out applications. These initial attempts get rejected because the creature has no credit history. However, filing an application and having it rejected actually creates the credit report.

After those first failed attempts, one of them goes through and the criminal’s fun begins. By using that new line of credit to make purchases, future credit applications get approved more often and faster.

One of the great conundrums about the story of Frankenstein is the ethics of killing a monster that is not really alive. The same is true of synthetic identity theft. How do you punish a criminal who has not actually stolen anyone’s identity? Of course, purchasing goods in a fake name and never paying for them is a crime, but it does not rank with identity theft in many people’s minds.

The Victims of Identity Crimes

There can actually be a victim, though. First, if the SSN the thief created actually matches someone’s legitimate number, that SSN can be tied to the criminal activity. More commonly, the SSN that was stolen from the list of unissued SSNs and used for synthetic identity theft eventually gets issued to a newborn applicant. This child may now have hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt that was accrued before they were ever born. This is one of the reasons why parents are being cautioned to freeze their children’s credit reports until they are adults.

While the reader is eventually led to feel sympathy for Frankenstein’s monster, all of his crimes aside, no one should overlook the damage caused by synthetic identity theft. As noted in the newest whitepaper by the Federal Reserve, “Detecting Synthetic Identity Fraud in the U.S. Payment System,” Auriemma Group estimates that synthetic identity fraud cost U.S. lenders $6 billion and accounted for 20% of credit losses in 2016. Retailers are stolen from, and a real individual could inherit a mess. There is no such thing as a victimless identity theft crime.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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If you have been to the DMV recently, there is a possibility they are selling personal information that belongs to you to a third-party. You might not think of privacy when you think of a government-issued ID, but DMV privacy is a serious matter. For years, consumers have been cautioned about protecting their sensitive information and not handing it over to anyone who asks for it. From summer camps to schools or doctors’ offices, the amount of sensitive information that some entities gather and store is more than one might think. Often, these organizations do not even know why they are collecting such an invasive amount of data and how it is being protected.

What do you do when you have no choice but to comply? After all, you are not getting a credit card, a home or even utilities without turning over a lot of your data. You also have no way of knowing how it will be protected, who can access it, and worse, what the organization can do with it intentionally.

A new report by Motherboard sheds light on a very alarming trend: DMVs in several different states are selling personal information that belongs to drivers’ to third-parties for as little as one cent per record. While the DMVs claim they did not sell photographs or Social Security numbers, many of them acknowledged that one of the biggest clients they are selling personal information to is private investigators.

An individual can hire a private investigator to gather information on you or surveil your location, and the private investigator may be very successful in learning more about you thanks to the information that was legally purchased from your own driver’s license office. This is especially chilling since many private investigators openly state they will take cases involving cheating spouses or divorce. The potential for an abusive partner to hire a private investigator and track down the whereabouts of a former partner is bone-chilling.

Unfortunately, this is also legal. Under a nearly thirty-year-old law called the “Driver’s Privacy Protection Act,” or DPPA, the DMV can legally profit by providing your data to outside agencies like towing companies, insurance providers and private investigators. That is especially troublesome since there is no nationwide set of standards and ethics for public investigators, and in some states, it requires nothing more than paying what amounts to a filing fee to become licensed.

What is the public supposed to do about DMVs selling personal information? Unless you can successfully live completely off the grid, and have done so for your entire life, ensuring that no one has your information, there is not much you can do. If you want to drive a car or carry state-issued photo identification, your information is going in the computer. Depending on where you live, it is lining their coffers, too.

However, you can take action to get the DPPA changed. Lawmakers are already investigating whether this law is too outdated in the current climate of data breaches, identity theft and privacy violations.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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At the Identity Theft Resource Center, we often receive a phone call from someone who has made the brave decision to remove themselves from a situation involving domestic violence and abuse, only to discover their abusers have stolen their identities. Whether these victims have physically left the shared residence or are still planning their escape, they realize they need independent financial resources. Sadly, that is when far too many victims discover they have been a victim of identity theft at the hands of their abuser.

How does identity theft play a role in domestic violence? Opening a credit card in the victim’s name, stealing a partner’s identity and using it illegally and other forms of coercion are all types of domestic violence, according to New York-based Vera House.

The decision to escape is hard enough. Discovering that they now carry insurmountable debt, an ongoing connection to their abuser and even potential criminal charges (for things like passing bad checks) can become a breaking point for some victims. Worse, it can cause them to reverse their decision because they mistakenly believe they cannot escape with identity theft hanging over them.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and as part of the initiatives to help the public access information and resources, the ITRC is speaking out about support that is available for victims who also face identity theft. Remember, domestic violence can encompass financial fraud and identity theft; in fact, one study in Texas found that one out of every three residents who called the National Domestic Violence Hotline in 2018 had already experienced economic or financial abuse.

A study by the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse found that:

  • Fifty-five percent of respondents reported being or knowing a victim of domestic violence or financial abuse, but less than half (44 percent) have talked about the topic with a family member or friend.
  • Seventy-one percent of those who have experienced financial abuse think the most effective way to keep victims from returning to their abusers is through financial empowerment.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation and believes they may also be victim of identity theft, we recommend the following steps:

Get a credit report immediately

You can do this for free at, and it can be done from any computer with internet access. Look to see if there are suspicious charges or outstanding debt related to your Social Security number.

Be prepared for retaliation

If your credit report does not show signs of fraud, that does not mean it cannot happen after you leave. Monitor your report and your accounts frequently to look for anything out of the ordinary.

Place a freeze on your credit

You can freeze your credit report for free in order to prevent anyone from opening new lines of credit in your name, but remember, it takes a little time to “thaw” it. If you are going to need your credit to find a new place to live, purchase your own vehicle, activate utilities at your new address or other similar purposes, you will need to leave it unfrozen. Also remember that any minors who are coming with you may be victims as well, so placing a freeze on their credit can protect them from someone else’s fraud, too.

Contact your financial institutions and make them aware of the situation

It can be hard to tell others about your situation in cases like this, but it is important that certain entities know. Your financial institution will handle the information sensitively, and you need to inform them of major changes concerning who can access your accounts or information.

File for separation and a restraining order

Filing for separation helps you begin to legally unbind yourself from your former partner. This is especially important if they have committed any kind of financial or identity fraud with your name. Without filing, you are still legally considered to be the debt holder and responsible for the charges. The restraining order is to protect both your physical person and your identity, and it gives you legal recourse if your former partner targets you or your data. For more help with domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit 

For more information on how you can recover from identity theft and how you can take action to protect yourself, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center’s toll-free hotline or contact an agent via chat on

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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Consumers have a new law in New York to thank for providing additional protection from identity theft and data breaches. The law, which was passed by the state legislature in June in response to the rash of record-breaking data breaches and updated regulations, spells out how companies must respond when a breach event occurs.

The new law in New York even applies to businesses outside of the state. If the victims of the breach are New Yorkers, the company must comply with the steps outlined in the law no matter where they are located. This can have a domino effect of sorts since disclosing the breach to those residents can help make consumers in other states aware that a breach has occurred, even if they are not going to be receiving notification letters due to their locations.

Moreover, the SHIELD Act in New York will cover biometric data, not just personal identifiable information like Social Security numbers or usernames and passwords. If a company gathers and stores things like fingerprints or blood type, that information is now considered worthy of triggering a data breach notification. In the past, different states have had different rules on what requires a notification letter, and until now, biometric data was not included in New York.

Further, the SHIELD Act will require companies to inform victims as quickly as possible that their information was compromised. If there are more than 500 victims from New York the company is also required to inform the state’s Attorney General’s office. It also outlines which types of information require a notification letter, such as email addresses and passwords, birthdates and SSNs.

The SHIELD Act signed last week by Governor Cuomo, goes into effect in March 2020. It is based on a lot of consumer protection concepts that were put into place in Europe under the GDPR regulations that were enacted last year. The new law in New York was also inspired in part by the Equifax data breach from a year ago, an event in which 147 million consumers had their complete identities stolen by hackers.

For its part, Equifax has now launched its claims website for consumers to find out instantly if their information has been compromised. If it has, the steps for filing a claim and seeking compensation are included on the site. The claims site can be found at

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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On Wednesday, July 24, 2019, people could begin filing Equifax claims for the recent data breach settlement, which included filing an Equifax breach settlement claim for a minor. In 2017, Equifax, one of the three largest credit reporting agencies in the world, announced they suffered a data breach. More than 148 million consumers’ identities had been stolen. A settlement was reached in the class-action lawsuit filed with a federal court. As a result, Equifax launched its claims process to help anyone who may have been a victim, including minors.

If you were a minor affected by the Equifax breach settlement but are now over 18-years-old, you must file your own claim and can do it online.

If the minor is still under 18-years old, a parent or legal guardian can make a claim for Credit Monitoring Services on the child’s behalf. However, it must be filed manually and sent out via direct mail. If you file an Equifax breach settlement claim for a minor, you must provide documentation to prove you are the parent or legal guardian of that minor.

Credit Monitoring Services will allow parents to receive alerts when certain personal data appears on suspicious websites, alerts when the Social Security number is associated with new names or addresses or the creation of a consumer report at one or more of the three nationwide Consumer Reporting Agencies. Finally, the minor will receive Identity Restoration Services if their identity is compromised.

The parent or legal guardian can elect to enroll the minor in one-bureau credit monitoring services provided by Equifax that would begin after the Credit Monitoring Services expire for a period of up to 14 years. According to the Equifax breach settlement page, a minor can receive monitoring services as follows: alerts when data elements like Social Security number submitted for monitoring appear on suspicious websites, including underground websites, a file is created, locked, and then monitored and for minors with an Equifax credit file, their credit file is locked and then monitored. The Experian Credit Monitoring Services and the optional one-bureau credit monitoring provided by Equifax together will cover 18 years.

The parent or legal guardian filing an Equifax breach settlement claim for a minor must opt for the minor to receive the one-bureau services when submitting a claim for the Credit Monitoring Services, and the parent or legal guardian will be sent instructions for how to enroll in the one-bureau monitoring before the Credit Monitoring Services expire. The cost of these services will be paid separately by Equifax, not out of the Consumer Restitution Fund.

Before finding out what support your minor may be eligible for while filing an Equifax breach settlement claim for a minor, it is important to know whether or not their information was affected. The website for consumers concerned about the Equifax data breach settlement has a button that will provide that information for you.

Enter your minor’s last name and the last six digits of their Social Security number, and the site will tell you whether or not their data was compromised.

If you discover that your minor’s personal identifiable information (PII) was compromised, your next step is to choose whether or not to participate in the class action suit. Your minor may be eligible for credit monitoring, identity restoration if their information was fraudulently used and a partial refund if they had already been an Equifax credit monitoring customer.

If you decide to file an Equifax breach settlement claim for a minor, you must do so by January 22, 2020. If you wish to state that your minor is not participating, the deadline is November 19, 2019.

The Identity Theft Resource Center recommends you consider all of your minor’s personal circumstances and how the breach and any subsequent identity crime issues impacted your minor before submitting a claim. While the process of recovering after an identity theft incident is costly in time, personal impacts and financial ramifications, filing without thinking through all the possibilities or having all the supporting documentation could short-change your minor’s identity hygiene in the long-run. Potential issues that may arise could include the inability to get financial aid for college, approval for a first apartment or being able to get a loan for a first car.

After determining what kind of Equifax breach claim you need to file for your minor, you can either claim free credit monitoring for up to ten years or a cash payment of $125 if you already have credit monitoring that includes the minor’s social security number – such as a family credit monitoring service.

While filing an Equifax breach settlement claim for a minor, it is important to organize your minor’s case with dated notes, receipts and a summary. The free ID Theft Help App provides an electronic case log feature to track the details of the case.

Depending on the state you live in, credit freezes were not free to all American consumers prior to September 2018. If you decided to pay to freeze your minor’s credit prior to 2018, you could be reimbursed those expenses. NOTE: if you want to submit a credit freeze for a minor now, it must also be done manually. It cannot be done online.

Due to the breach occurring in May 2017, your minor could be reimbursed for costs, expenses or losses due to identity theft even though the breach was announced in September 2017.

Your minor is eligible for identity theft restoration services for the next seven years, regardless of if you decide you do not want them to take part in the class-action suit.

Whether or not your minor takes part in the suit, it is a good idea to place a freeze on their credit report. Remember, you can only do this manually with a minor. You cannot place a freeze online.

All of the documents, dates, claims process and FAQs can be found on the website that has been built to support Equifax claim. If you are not sure if your minor’s information has been affected, visit EquifaxBreachSettlement.Com.

If you are a victim of identity theft in need of assistance, you can receive free remediation services from ITRC. Call one of our expert advisors toll-free at 888.400.5530 or LiveChat with us. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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With the recent Equifax data breach settlement, as well as the large Capital One breach, many people are asking questions about credit monitoring services. Should I use them? What are its benefits?

The conversation really gained steam when Equifax began offering free credit monitoring services to people impacted by their breach. Credit monitoring services are simply a mechanism for the Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) to track a consumer’s credit file in order to detect any suspicious activity or changes. In regards to whether or not you should take advantage –that really depends on your specific situation.

Should I enroll in credit monitoring services?

If you are already receiving credit monitoring services, maybe as a benefit through your employer, financial institution or insurance carrier for example, then passing on the monitoring aspect might make more sense. However, if you do not have access to robust credit monitoring services and have the ability to enroll in free credit monitoring services offered as part of a breach – such as Equifax, it may be a good option.

Should I place a credit freeze as well?

Ultimately, the Identity Theft Resource Center recommends consumers take advance of both credit monitoring services and credit freezes if they fall victim to a data breach. Along with your credit history being tracked, a credit freeze can stop any new accounts from being activated. Credit freezes do not impact existing credit accounts which report your payment history and account health to the CRAs. It only limits access to your credit reports to create new lines of credit.

It is important to remember that should you need to lift a credit freeze for any reason, like in order to apply for a new account like a home mortgage for example, the credit monitoring will catch any other accounts that someone with malicious intent might try to open. However, it is ultimately up to the consumer to decide what is best based in their set of circumstances.

What are the benefits of both?

Credit monitoring services and credit freezes provide their own benefits to keep consumers as safe as possible. The ultimate goal of credit monitoring services is to keep your accounts protected in a possible time of vulnerability. Monitoring can also catch suspicious activity on your existing accounts that may have been compromised due to a breach.

What if I need more help?

At the end of the day, do what is best for you. You can contact the ITRC for free assistance at 888.400.5530 with any questions you might have about your particular situation.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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