Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 2.68 million Americans were affected by identity theft in 2017. This equated to over $602 million dollars lost to identity thieves.
Identity theft can come in many forms, such as credit card fraud, bank and loan fraud, utilities fraud, social security fraud and online shopping charges. Thieves use your personal information to gain access to your accounts and make unauthorized purchases. Many don’t realize they have been victims until mysterious charges appear on credit card bills, bank accounts are drained, utilities have been established in their name, etc.
BBB offers these tips to help protect your identity:
• Carry only the cards you need. Minimize the number of cards and identification information you carry in your wallet or purse. Never carry your Social Security card unless necessary.
• Keep personal information in a safe place. If you employ outside help or are having service work done in your home, keep your personal information out of sight.
• Cut up old or expired credit cards. Close inactive credit cards or bank accounts.
• Choose a unique PIN number. Make sure this number is different from your address, telephone number, Social Security number or birthday. Memorize it and don’t write it down anywhere.
• Check your credit reports regularly. You’re allowed one free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com.
• Opt out of pre-approved credit card offers. These can be stolen from your mailbox by identity thieves. Call (888) 5OPT-OUT to have your name removed.
• Keep your mail safe. Stop mail delivery if you are traveling.
• Do not give more information than necessary. Don’t give personal information to unfamiliar people or companies. If your Social Security number is needed, ask if you can use an alternate identification number.
• Compare ATM receipts and checks to your bank statements. Ensure there are no unauthorized transfers or charges.
• Shred documents containing personal information. Invest in a paper shredder or attend shredding events to shred documents.
BBB hosts a complimentary identity theft prevention community event featuring free shredding. It’s a great opportunity to safely and securely dispose of unneeded personal documents. The next one will be held on Saturday, April 21 at Routsong Funeral Home, Inc., 81 N. Main St., Centerville, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
BBB will provide tickets to the first 350 cars to arrive assuring their material will be shredded at the event. Additional patrons may be accepted to drop off material dependent on the time and capacity of the trucks. Once trucks meet capacity the event will end and cars may be directed to alternative shredding options. Each vehicle may bring up to five boxes or bags of documents to be shredded. (If you have more than five boxes, you’re welcome to go through the line again.)
If you discover you’ve been a victim of identity theft, file a police report and close accounts you think may have been affected. You can also report it to BBB Scamtracker and to the FTC by calling its toll-free hotline, 1-877-IDTHEFT or visiting www.consumer.gov/idtheft. Don’t be caught off guard by identity thieves. Contact BBB to learn how you can protect yourself. Visit www.bbb.org or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301 for more information on identity theft.