About 9% of U.S. residents have been victims of identity theft with financial losses totaling $15.1 billion according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Because identity theft is on the rise, the smartest way to protect yourself is to prevent it from happening to you.
During tax season, your personal information is particularly vulnerable. After all, your Social Security number is on W-2 forms, your tax return, and other financial documents being sent through the mail, transported to accountants, and used to complete your annual IRS ritual. So it’s a good time of the year to be especially vigilant.
Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
Keep these tips in mind to protect yourself from identity theft.
- Password-protect your devices and use a password manager. Create a different, complex password for every account.
- Secure your Social Security number and only give it out when necessary.
- Shred all personal documents including receipts, account statements, and expired credit cards.
- Regularly review your credit card, bank, and financial statements and watch for unauthorized transactions. Review your credit reports annually and look for any accounts you have not opened.
- Freeze your credit with Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. There is no cost to do this and it prevents someone from applying for credit accounts and utility services in your name.
What to Do if Your Identity Is Stolen
If your identity is stolen, you’ll be able to lessen problems by acting quickly.
- Call your credit card companies immediately. Explain what happened and ask where to send a copy of the police report.
- Call and report to the police. Make several copies of the police report. Only 7% of identity victims report the crime to the police, but it is important to file a report.
- Complete a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Theft Affidavit and FTC report. Call 1-887-ID-THEFT to request the forms.
- Contact your bank. They can place an alert on your driver’s license number and Social Security number and freeze your bank accounts.
- Call fraud units of the credit report agencies Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.
Fortunately, identity theft protection is available as an endorsement on most homeowners’ policies for a small cost. The coverage reimburses certain expenses associated with identity recovery. Customers can also get guidance on how to protect themselves from identity theft before it happens and may receive assistance with identity restoration.
Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.