Combatting Identity Theft

Combatting Identity Theft

( – In the blink of an eye, everything we’ve worked and saved for can be gone. Identity theft is on the rise, spreading like wildfire. Thieves and hackers are constantly cooking up new ways to invade our privacy and steal our identities. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to protect ourselves. Let’s learn more about ways to combat identity theft.

Suspicious Signs

Scammers are always looking for opportunities to hack into our accounts and breach important data safeguards. There may be important clues that someone is lurking or has breached an account. Watch out for these signs:

  • Calls from debt collectors about unfamiliar bills;
  • Past due notices from the IRS or Treasury Department;
  • Unknown names on mail coming to your house;
  • Strange withdrawals from your bank account;
  • A cell phone or other utility loses service.

If any of these situations sound familiar, we need to be careful when and to whom we reveal sensitive personal identifying information (PII).

Electronic Footprints

Thieves mainly use the internet to break through firewalls to steal our data. Even when we’re not actively making a purchase or conducting a financial transaction, they can still gain access and retrieve our information. Thieves may leave subtle clues behind after lurking around:

  • Never ignore log-in notifications via text or email. In many cases, our accounts will alert us if there’s been an attempt to make a change, and whether it’s successful or not.
  • Some thieves start small, making small purchases we may not catch right away.
  • Hackers may log into retail accounts and change phone numbers, addresses, names and passwords so items will be shipped to their house using our credit cards.

In some instances, criminals may use RFID scanners to capture credit card and driver’s license information from purses or wallets as they walk by us. Using an RFID-blocking wallet or phone case can discourage would-be thieves.

Keeping Information Secure

There are several steps we can take to help keep ourselves more secure. They include:

  • Securing our personal identifying information (PII). Those cute, fun quizzes on social media might be tricking us into revealing more than we realize.
  • Using antivirus and malware detection software on all our electronic devices and keeping it up to date. Most software accommodates phones and tablets as well as computers.
  • Setting complex passwords and updating them frequently.
  • Opting out of online wallets. Saving information online when we pay bills or order items can be a potential source of trouble. It’s simple to just re-add it every time we make a payment.
  • Checking our mailbox each day or having mail held at the post office.
  • Shredding sensitive documents instead of tossing them in the trash.
  • Monitoring credit reports regularly.

Taking these simple steps can help eliminate leaked information sources that allow hackers opportunities to steal identities and finances.

Set Up a Recovery Plan

If you fall victim to identity theft, the first step is to report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can reach them by internet at or by phone, toll-free, at (877) 438-4338. The FTC will help create a recovery plan that will include reminders to contact banks, credit card companies and utility providers. You’ll also want to contact all three credit reporting agencies to freeze your credit and safeguard your social security number. In some cases, it may be necessary to replace personal records or identification cards. Like all disaster plans, it’s best to set this up in advance and hope you never need to use it.

Identity theft is a terrible personal violation that can disrupt our personal and financial security. In the worst cases, it may take years to recover financially. Thankfully, forewarned is forearmed, and we can take actions now that might protect us from hacking and identity theft and the long-term consequences.

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