What is identity theft?
Identity theft is a crime where a person uses your personal identification information, like your name, Social Security Number, driver’s license number or credit card number, without your permission with an intention to commit fraud. This also allows the criminal to steal money from you by opening up new credit card accounts and running up charges on them or purchasing new services like a phone account, internet, rent an apartment, etc. in your name. You may not even be able to find out about the theft until you review your credit card statement and notice charges you didn’t make or in some instances until you review your full credit report and credit history.
How is it harmful?
Identity theft can also provide a thief with false credentials for immigration or other applications. The biggest problem with identity theft is that the crimes committed by the thief are often attributed to the victim. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Identity theft is a serious crime and it can be harmful to the person whose identity is stolen by losing out on job opportunities, or denial of loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. Aside from losing money and confidence in the marketplace, identity theft also soils the reputation and livelihood of the consumer. In few cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit. According to the FBI, identity theft is the fastest-growing white-collar crime in the United States.
What can one do if already a victim of Identity Theft?
1) Place a fraud alert on your credit reports as and review them as fraud alert prevents an identity thief from opening more accounts in your name.
2) Close the accounts that you suspect have been opened fraudulently immediately.
3) File a complaint with the local police or with the Federal Trade Commission, which may help in recovering from identity theft more quickly.
How to avoid Identity theft?
To minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft, remember the word SCAM:
S – Be stingy. Do not give your personal information to others unless you have a valid reason to trust them
C – always Check your financial information on a regular basis to track your financial status
A – Ask for a copy of your credit report from time to time – you are entitled to 1 free report every year
M – Maintain careful records of your banking and other important financial accounts