With the increased reliance on technology, opportunities for identity theft have increased exponentially over the last decade, and even reputable companies are experiencing privacy breaches. Here are a few tips that will help you control some potential sources of ID theft and reduce your chances of becoming the victim of identity fraud:
Don't call us, we'll call you.
If you get phone calls or emails asking for any type of personal information, politely decline. Instead, look up the company's telephone number or website and contact them directly to make sure the inquiry is legitimate.
Be sure to keep your personal and account information under lock and key.
Consider a locking mailbox and use a shredder when discarding old financial papers and bills.
Avoid being too social on social media.
When filling out your online profile, avoid providing critical personal information, such as your marital status, your maiden name, your birth date or address. Also, don't accept "friend" invitations from people you don't know - they could be a "bot" designed to access your personal information and your friends' information. Be skeptical of online polls and quizzes, which often collect data to provide to an undisclosed third party.
Take action when your 12-year old is offered a low interest rate.
Generally, a credit report is not started on a person until they become old enough to need credit. But, fraudsters take advantage of this: using birth announcements to open up fraudulent accounts that can go undetected for years. If you get a credit card solicitation in your child's name, call the credit reporting bureaus to see if a credit report has been opened up in his or her name. If it has, clear up the fraud and ask for a freeze to be put in place until your child is old enough to need it.
They're watching - make sure you are too.
If you don't already, start paying closer attention to your accounts. Look at them weekly to make sure all charges are legitimate and be sure to order the free credit report that the three major credit reporting bureaus - Experian, Equifax and TransUnion - are legally obligated to provide to you. Most financial institutions will forgive charges if you can demonstrate that they were fraudulent, but there is usually a time limit when you can ask for this.