IDENTITY THEFT ON THE RISE, HERE’S HOW TO HELP PROTECT YOURSELF

Sgt. Gary Howard, of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department, is notifying the public of some identity theft facts. Identity theft is a growing problem that affects millions of people every year.
Here are some facts:
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft is the fastest-growing crime in the United States, with 10 million victims of people affected every year and growing.
It can happen to anyone: Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, regardless of their age, income, or background. Every 4 seconds someone’s identity is stolen. 55% don’t find out for 3 months and 13% don’t discover it for 4 years.
It can take many forms: Identity theft can take many forms, including credit card fraud, tax fraud, medical identity theft, and more.
Victims can suffer significant financial losses: Identity theft can result in significant financial losses for victims, including damage to credit scores, unauthorized charges on credit cards, and even drained bank accounts. 47% face difficult credit woes and 70% never get rid of negative marks on credit. It can cost around $8,000 to recover once it is discovered and 600 hours in paperwork. 12% of victims have criminal warrants in their name. Recovering from identity theft can be a long and difficult process that can take months or even years.
Children can be victims of identity theft: Children are increasingly becoming targets of identity theft, as their Social Security numbers and personal information can be used to open fraudulent accounts.
Prevention is key: Taking steps to prevent identity theft, can help reduce your risk of becoming a victim.
Here are some tips:
-Be wary of unsolicited requests for personal information: Scammers often use phone calls, emails, or text messages to try to trick people into giving them personal information. Be suspicious of any unsolicited requests for personal information, and only provide personal information to trusted sources.
-Secure your personal information: Keep your sensitive documents, such as your Social Security card, passport, and financial statements, in a secure location. Shred any documents that contain personal information before throwing them away.
-Use strong passwords: Use strong, unique passwords for all of your accounts. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts, and consider using a password manager to help you keep track of your passwords.
-Monitor your accounts regularly: Check your bank and credit card statements regularly for any unauthorized transactions. You can also sign up for credit monitoring services to get alerts if there are any changes to your credit report.
-Be careful when using public Wi-Fi: Public Wi-Fi networks are not secure, and hackers can use them to intercept your personal information. Avoid accessing sensitive accounts, such as bank accounts or email, on public Wi-Fi networks.
-Keep your software up to date: Keep your computer and mobile device software up to date with the latest security patches and updates to help protect against known vulnerabilities.
-Be careful with your social media information: Be careful about the personal information you share on social media. Scammers can use this information to try to guess your passwords or answer security questions to access your accounts.
By following these tips, you can reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. If you find that you are a victim of identity theft, it’s important to act quickly to minimize the damage.
Here are the steps you should take:
Contact your financial institution: If you notice unauthorized transactions on your bank or credit card accounts, contact your financial institution immediately to report the fraud and cancel your cards.
Place a fraud alert on your credit report: Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) and request a fraud alert be placed on your credit report. This will make it harder for an identity thief to open new accounts in your name.
Equifax 800-525-6285
Experian 888-397-3742
Trans Union 800-680-7289
Review your credit reports: Request a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies and review them carefully for any unauthorized accounts or transactions.
File a report with the FTC: File a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at their website, IdentityTheft.gov. The FTC will provide you with a recovery plan and a list of steps to take to protect your identity.
Contact the authorities: If you know the identity of the person who stole your identity, contact The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office at (931) 484-6176 and file a report. Keep a copy of the report for your records.
Consider a credit freeze: Consider placing a credit freeze on your credit report to prevent anyone from opening new accounts in your name.
Keep detailed records: Keep a detailed record of all communications and actions taken to resolve the identity theft. This will be important if you need to dispute any fraudulent charges or accounts.
Remember, the key to protecting yourself from identity theft is to be vigilant and take steps to prevent it from happening in the first place. By monitoring your accounts regularly, using strong passwords, and being careful with your personal information, you can reduce your risk of becoming a victim.