According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly 9 million Americans annually are victims of identity theft, or the unapproved use of personal information in fraudulent or criminal use.
To help combat identity theft, the FTC has implemented a “Deter, Detect, Defend” program. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself:
DETER Stop identity theft before it starts by minimizing your risk of becoming a victim. Properly discard mail and trash by shredding it, use difficult online passwords, give out your Social Security number only when necessary, store personal information in a safe area, and protect your credit cards (even expired ones). Most importantly, confirm that organizations you are sharing your information with are reliable.
DETECT Monitor your accounts regularly to check for any suspicious activity. Pay attention to other questionable events such as suddenly being denied credit, missing bills or mail typically received routinely, or receiving credit cards you did not apply for.
DEFEND The Federal Trade Commission outlines four steps to take if you or someone you know is a victim of identity theft:
1. Review and place a fraud alert on all credit reports;
2. Close accounts you know were opened fraudulently;
3. File a complaint with the FTC; and
4. File a report with local law enforcement.
For more information, go online to www.ftc.gov and click “Identity Theft” under the Quick Finder box.