The pavement on the road reflects the heat of the sun creating a wavy haze over the cars in front of you. With each passing moment you inch closer and closer to your mocha frappe latte that will quench your thirst and your afternoon workout a lot easier. As you pull up to the window of the drive-thru the busy cashier is taking another order while handing you your drink. He swipes your card and stares questioningly at the screen. He swipes it again. Declined…
There’s money in there and you know it, so you head to the bank to find out what the deal is. “Mrs. XXXX, your account has been overdrawn by three hundred dollars and your saving account is empty.” Impossible because these accounts had over $10,000 in them last night. There are charges on the account that you don’t recognize. Someone has gotten hold of your information and has stolen your identity.
What is Identity Theft?
Webster’s defines Identity Theft as “The illegal use of someone else’s personal identifying information in order to get money or credit.” This can mean anything from someone getting hold of your credit card information to someone applying for a job with your information. It can happen a thousand different ways.
- Someone steals your wallet or purse
- A thief swipes your mail and bank statements
- Hackers obtain private data from large corporations (Target, Neiman Marcus…)
- ATM’s fitted with false card readers
- E-mail scammers
- Fake websites you’ve created accounts on
- Someone buys your info from a third party that’s obtained it
“Identity theft takes a big bite out of the economy, $21 billion in 2013 alone. Statistics point to younger victims as seeing the highest levels of identity theft. Credit card information is the top target by far, involved in 64% of cases. The younger the consumer, the higher the number of fraud complaints. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 18 to 24 year old’s saw the biggest rate of identity theft. The Carthage police chief says that could be connected to their increasing use of technology.”***
These are just some examples of how a crook can obtain your personal information. With a world so dependent on technology and every new website insisting that you create a “profile” it seems almost inevitable that someone someday is going to get a hold of your private information.
How are people supposed to remember a password for every site that required a log in? They don’t and people will tend to just keep repeating the same password over and over. This makes it incredibly easy for people to log in to each account because they now have the master key to all the access points.
What to do If Your Identity is Stolen
There are some things that need to be taken care of right away if your identity is stolen. You’ve got to assume that if someone has some of your information then they may have all of it. As the saying goes, “It’s better to be safe than sorry” when it comes to these things.
1. Contact a credit reporting agency. Three national credit reporting companies keep records of your credit history.They will be able to put a temporary (90 day) fraud alert on your credit report. This won’t cost you a penny and all you will need to do is have proof of your identity. Here are the links to the credit reporting agencies.
2. Contact your credit card companies. Thieves will often go straight for your credit cards. It’s quick, they can buy what they want and then they can dump the cards. It’s smart to contact your card companies and let them know that someone has gotten hold of your information. They will be able to pull up your most recent statements and go over all the charges with you.
Sometimes it’s a great idea to keep written records in case of emergency, but it’s not always wise to write everything down. Keeping all of your accounts numbers in one place is a surefire way for a thief to get a hold of information that you don’t want them to have. However, it is smart to keep the contact info for your credit card companies written down and kept somewhere safe in the event that you may need it.
3. File a police report. Call your local police department and let them know that your information has been stolen. They will assist you in determining what further steps need to be taken, what else needs to be taken care of immediately and what you can do if the thief is caught. Make sure to get a copy of the police report for your records.
There are some set in stone rules to follow during an identity theft crisis, but each case will be different and each person may be affected in different ways. Remember too that your homeowners policy may cover your losses in the event that your identity is stolen. Make sure to review the policy with your agent to see what the coverage’s are and if you’re not covered, talk to them about getting an endorsement that will get you coverage.
*** Bolander, Gretchen. “Identity Theft Now Targeting More Young Adults.” www.Fourstateshomepage.com. N.p., 2 May 2014. Web.