National Consumer Protection Week – March 6 – 12th
Our personal data is everywhere, and providing information like passwords and account numbers to access online accounts is something many of us do on a daily basis. Unfortunately, whenever we supply our PII, we are taking some level of risk that a criminal could steal and misuse it. But there are ways to reduce the likelihood of identity theft, and many of these strategies are simple and free.
The best way to help prevent identity theft is to sign up for an identity theft protection service. Although an identity theft protection service can’t prevent identity theft, it can alert you promptly when it happens to limit the damage and help you recover. Identity theft protection can help safeguard your personal information for a monthly or annual fee. Subscriptions can include monitoring of credit reports, financial accounts, medical information, social media activity, the dark web, and more. Identity theft protection companies also provide recovery services if your information is compromised. Some offer identity theft coverage of up to $1 million and access to attorneys or private investigators to help you restore your credit and reputation. Most also give you a dashboard to view notifications and contact customer service if fraudulent activity occurs.
Besides subscribing to an identity theft protection service, there are other ways to help prevent identity theft.
- Freeze your credit.
- Collect mail daily.
- Review credit card and bank statements regularly.
- shred documents containing personal information before throwing away.
- Create different passwords for your accounts.
- Install antivirus software.
- Enable two-factor authentication on devices and accounts.
What can you do if you suspect or know that your identity has been stolen?
Recovering from identity theft can be a long, stressful, and potentially costly process. Many credit card companies have adopted policies that try to minimize the amount of money you are liable for, but the implications can extend beyond your existing accounts. To minimize the extent of the damage, take action as soon as possible:
- Start by visiting IdentityTheft.gov – This is a trusted, one-stop resource to help you report and recover from identity theft. Information provided here includes checklists, sample letters, and links to other resources.
- Possible next steps in the process – You may need to contact credit reporting agencies or companies where you have accounts, file police or other official reports, and consider other information that may have been compromised.
Other sites that offer information and guidance for recovering from identity theft are:
- Federal Trade Commission – https://www.consumer.ftc.gov
- United States Department of Justice – https://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.html
- Social Security Administration – https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10064.pdf
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For more information on Identity Theft Protection, Click Here.