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Recovering From Identity Theft

identify theft image of vault with passport and credit cardYou think that your social security number has been stolen.  Or you received a notice that your personal information was exposed in a data breach.  Or you lost your wallet.  Now what?

According to the Department of Justice, 17.6 million people were identity theft victims in 2014. That represents 7% of the U.S. population.  The FTC received nearly half a million complaints about it in 2015.  The 2016 Identity Fraud Study, released by Javelin Strategy & Research, found that $15 billion was stolen from 13.1 million U.S. consumers in 2015, compared with $16 billion and 12.7 million victims a year earlier. In the past six years identity thieves have stolen $112 billion.

The chance of becoming a victim of some form of identity theft increases with every new data breach.  With that fact in mind, the federal government has posted several resources that can be used by you if you think your identity has been stolen as well as tips for keeping your personal information secure. 

A Few Tips

  • Use strong passwords with your laptop, credit, bank, and other accounts. Be creative: think of a special phrase and use the first letter of each word as your password. Substitute numbers for some words or letters and use special characters. For example, “I really want to see the Pacific Ocean” could become 1rW2CtPo!!
  • Shred receipts, credit offers, credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks, bank statements, expired charge cards, and similar documents when you don’t need them any longer.
  • Before you dispose of a computer, get rid of all the personal information it stores. Use a wipe utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive.
  • Keep a close hold on your Social Security number and ask questions before deciding to share it. Ask if you can use a different kind of identification. If someone asks you to share your SSN or your child’s, ask:
    • why they need it
    • how it will be used
    • how they will protect it
    • what happens if you don’t share the number

Steps to Take If You Are a Victim of Identity Theft

  • Call the companies where you know fraud occurred.
  • Place a fraud alert and get your credit report.
  • Report identity theft to the FTC.
  • File a report with your local police department.
  • Go to IdentityTheft.gov for next steps.

Additional tips on dealing with identity theft