A stolen identity is something many people write off as “might happen to others, but won’t happen to me.” Unfortunately, with the rise of social engineering and more and more ways to pay others electronically, identity theft is even more common. In fact, in the last 6 years, identity thieves have stolen roughly $112 billion.
Identity theft can occur from your financial information or personally identifiable information (PII), which can be taken from a company, house, the trash (dumpster diving), computer or any other source for illicit use. This is an obvious concern if your purse or wallet is stolen, but social media also plays an enormous role. Social media is a tool fraudsters can utilize to attain information people might not even realize they are providing. This includes family history, maiden names, pet names, and more. You may even begin to receive phone calls (Vishing), where the thief is trying to gain even more information about you. Fraudsters are hopeful once they have gathered enough information about you, they will be able to perpetrate fraud.
For instance, if a fraudster has successfully attained enough PII, they can open a credit card, which is the simplest form of consumer loan fraud because you don’t have to open these accounts in person. Credit cards, and even online bank accounts if not properly protected, allow thieves to move fraudulent funds through an account by using express payment sources that enable you to pay people with a simple text or email.
The best way to spot this type of fraud is to monitor your bank accounts daily and to do a complete reconciliation of your bank accounts at the end of each month. There are other steps you can take to monitor your finances and prevent identity theft, including:
- Monitor your credit report several times a year. There are services that allow you to receive your credit report for free annually.
- Never provide any PII. Your legitimate financial relationships should never request your personal information because they already have it.
- Limit what you expose on social media. This includes your place of employment, maiden names, children’s or pets’ names, especially if those items are used in any of your login credentials.
- Never leave wallets or purses visible and accessible. Gyms, sports complex, big events, and parking lots are a gold mine for having those items stolen.
- Consider putting freezes on your accounts. You can put freezes on having any new checking accounts opened in your name. You can also add freezes with credit reporting agencies for either the short or long terms.
- Opt out of solicitation mail and phone calls. You have the choice to receive this solicitation or not.
- Additional protection. You can even add a rider on to your homeowner’s insurance policy to assist in fees for attorneys to help clear any items that adversely impact you.
In short, actively monitor your accounts monthly, credit reports annually and limit your exposure. And, most importantly, make your financial security a priority.