By Savvy Cyber Kids March 7, 2018
Technology and convenience go hand-in-hand, right? We can conduct our personal and professional business activities online in ways that hardly could have been imagined even just a few years ago. But, as with many things, there is often a price to pay for convenience. And in this case, there are very real threats to security when putting your private information online… a necessary step to accessing technology conveniences.
Unfortunately, identity theft — where personal information such as your name or social security number is stolen to commit fraud — is more common than we like to admit. Your identity allows a criminal to fraudulently apply for credit, file taxes, get your tax refund, or obtain medical services, resulting in your credit status being negatively affected. You’ll spend a painfully significant amount of time and money trying to restore your good name, with your ability to manage your finances severely hampered in the meantime.
Here’s what you should be doing to prevent identity theft.
The worst part is that you may not know that you are the victim of ID theft until you experience a catastrophic financial consequence, like unexplained significant bills, aggressive collections, or denied loans when you are depending on additional credit. Identity theft is a faceless crime. You will have no idea who is doing this to you and they will, no doubt, give you little thought as they rampage your life. Yet the consequences of this crime are scars that will mark its victim for years to come.
This is no more true than in the case of Child Identity Theft, where a child’s identity is stolen and might go undetected for many years, resulting in incredible damage by adulthood. This is why I recommend setting security freezes for the entire family. The reality is that credit monitoring services are not enough. Someone can still open an account in your name and ruin your credit history. Encourage all of your family members to contact each of the three credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) and place a security freeze on your credit files. With the security freeze on your credit file, no one can open a new account (take out a mortgage, a car loan, or other financial commitment on your behalf) unless they have your secret pin.
If you are a victim of identity theft, report it immediately to the FTC either online or by phone at 877-438-4338. To report it online and get a personalized recovery plan, this is a terrific user-friendly site that will walk you through the steps of recovering your identity. Once you file the ID theft with the FTC, you will have an ID theft affidavit. Print and take the ID theft affidavit with you to file the crime with the local police. The ID affidavit and your police report are your identity theft report. Your identity theft report will be very important as you resolve the problem with creditors, banks, and any other companies where fraudulent accounts were set up in your name.
You may also report specific types of identity theft to other agencies:
Your social security number is used to falsely file a tax return, typically to get a tax refund or a job. Be aware, the IRS DOES NOT initiate contact with a taxpayer by sending an email, text, or social message requesting personal or financial information. Should you get an email that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Your fear of this crime can be used against you via email scams that falsely alert you to a crime and seek your personal information that will later be used to steal from you. Instead, you should report it to the IRS and your state’s Department of Taxation or Revenue. File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can also call the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 877-438-4338 or TTY 866-653-4261. Respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided. If instructed, go to the Identity Verification Service. Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit; print, then mail or fax according to instructions. Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.
Your Medicare ID or health insurance member number is used to get medical services, or to issue fraudulent billing to your health insurance provider. If you believe you have been a victim of medical identity theft, call the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338 (TTY: 866-653-4261) and your health insurance company’s fraud department. You can create a complaint form with the details of your experience at IdentityTheft.gov to share with them and with law enforcement. If you suspect that you have been the victim of Medicare fraud, contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Inspector General at 800-447-8477.
In addition to federal government agencies, you should also report the theft to other organizations, such as:
If you need more help — and I hope you take steps to ensure identity theft never happens to you — the Federal Trade Commission offers a publication, Taking Charge – What to do if Your Identity is Stolen that shares detailed tips, checklists, along with sample letters.
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