Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft
May 13, 2023
Identity (ID) theft is when someone uses your private information to commit fraud, typically for financial gain, without your permission. Identity thieves often use an individual’s date of birth, social security number, or other identifying information to apply for credit, take over online accounts, file taxes, get medical services, and many other nefarious purposes. Identity theft can affect anyone, but senior citizens face a heightened vulnerability due to the widespread accessibility of their health records across multiple platforms, placing them at a greater risk of falling victim to such fraudulent activities.
Warning Signs of Identity Theft
- Unfamiliar charges on your bank statement
- Strange or unrecognized credit card charges
- New credit cards or loans in your name
- Unexpected calls from debt collectors
- Being denied credit
- A sudden drop in your credit score
- Your income taxes have already been filed
- You are unable to sign into an online account
- Your health insurance benefits limit is maxed out
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
- If any of your sensitive items or documents (insurance card, bank cards, checkbook) are stolen, immediately notify those banks or companies to protect against unauthorized use.
- Keep your Social Security Number secure. It is best practice not to keep your SSN card in your wallet but in a safe location.
- Do not give someone your personal information over the phone or online (birthdate, SSN, or account numbers).
- Do not have your phone number or Driver’s License number printed on your checks.
- Limit your use of checks and pay by other means available as often as possible.
- If bills or statements are late, notify the sender, consider using automatic payments, and/or use your bank’s online bill payment features.
- Use security features on your mobile phone and other devices, such as passwords, PINs, or biometrics, so others can’t access them.
- When you use public Wi-Fi, such as in the airport or restaurant, use a virtual private network (VPN) to protect your online actions.
- Review credit card and bank account statements for unauthorized charges.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, health insurance explanation of benefits statements, account statements, and expired credit
- cards to keep sensitive information out of the hands of “dumpster divers.”
- Store personal information in a safe place.
- Use firewalls and virus-detections software on your home computer and update your operating systems.
- Use complex passwords and change your passwords often. Do not use the same password for multiple sites.
- Review your credit reports annually. You can do this for free from Annualcreditreport.com and consider using the credit monitoring services available.
- Freeze your credit files with Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion for free.
How to Report Identity Theft
Reporting identity theft is important. And it only takes a few minutes. Reporting identity theft can save someone else from going through a similar situation.
Report to the Federal Trade Commission
- Report online at IdentityTheft.gov or
- By phone at 1-877-438-4338.
Report to a local police station if
- You know the identity thief
- The thief used your name with the police
- A creditor or company requires you to provide a police report.
Visit www.USA.gov for more information on how to report other types of ID Theft.