Q: My friend just had her identity stolen. She never thought that it would happen to her, and now I am scared it could happen to me. They’ve stolen everything! How can I be certain this does not happen to me?
A: It’s great that you want to be proactive in protecting your identity! Your identity is the most important thing you have, so why allow anyone to get their hands on it?
According to the 2018 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research, the number of identity fraud victims increased by 8 percent, rising to 16.7 million U.S consumers. While you can never be 100 percent protected from falling victim to identity theft, there are some things you can do to minimize your risk.
▪ Monitor your accounts and statements regularly.
▪ Secure your Social Security number and do not carry it in your wallet. Only give out your SSN when absolutely necessary.
▪ Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for personal information by phone, mail, or online.
▪ Collect your mail promptly, and place a hold or have someone you trust collect your mail when you’re away.
▪ Change your passwords regularly and make sure you use strong passwords, and do not re-use them across multiple websites.
▪ Keep your security software and virus protection up-to-date, and be wary of public Wi-Fi as that is easily hackable.
▪ Store personal information in a safe place.
▪ Get your free credit report once a year at annualcreditreport.com to be certain everything is accurate.
▪ Use your credit card if possible just in case you need to dispute a charge later on.
▪ Make sure the website URL begins with https and includes the lock symbol. The S stands for secure.
▪ Shred any outdated documents containing personal information.
Here are a few warning signs that you should look out for that may alert you to a potential ID theft hack.
▪ Charges on your account that you did not authorize.
▪ You randomly stop receiving bills in the mail.
▪ Your card is declined or your checks bounce.
▪ Withdrawals from your bank account that you cannot explain.
▪ You are contacted by a debt collector about a debt that is not yours.
▪ New accounts show up on your credit report that you didn’t authorize.
Better Business Bureau is putting on a shred event that’s a part of the National Secure Your ID Day, Saturday, Oct. 13, in the Lifestyle Furniture parking lot on the southeast corner of Shaw and Blackstone avenues. You can come and shred all your outdated documents and help put a stop to identity theft.
For more tips and information, visit bbb.org.
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems toAction Line at the BetterBusiness Bureau, 2600 W. Shaw Lane, Fresno, CA 93711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.