I’m guessing you brush your teeth to protect them. You also protect your health by wearing a seatbelt. But how do you protect yourself from Identity Theft and what do you do if you become a victim?
First, like sleeping through your alarm, identity theft can happen to anyone. The good news is that you can take steps to make it less likely that your sensitive information will be taken.
According to Federal Trade Commission complaints, when Ohioans complain about identity theft, we often mean our credit cards are being used without permission. However, using a credit card may be better than using a debit card. Not only is canceling a compromised credit card more painless than cancelling a debit card linked to your bank account, but federal law requires credit card companies cover any theft over $50. Your debit card liability depends on when you report your loss.
One way to limit the pain caused by credit card Identity theft is to use only one credit card for online purchases. So if an identity thief gets that card, you can cancel it and use another for in-store purchases.
Here are more tips to help you protect your identity:
Read your credit card statements carefully and often, to see if there are unknown charges.
Keep track of your regular bills, if you don’t get one when it’s supposed to come, it could be because a thief has changed the address and is ripping you off.
Review your medical bills to make sure no one is charging health care costs to you.
Shred all documents with sensitive personal or financial information, such as bills, bank statements, doctor’s invoices, and tax return documents you don’t need. Get a cross-cut shredder (not the kind that leaves long strips that can be taped back together).
Review each of the three major credit reports once a year by visiting annualcreditreport.com. This is the free website authorized by federal law. And you can look at a different report every four months to keep up to date throughout the year.
But what happens if, despite all these steps, it looks like an identity thief has gotten at you? There are so many different types of identity theft, I can’t possibly cover everything. Luckily, the Federal Trade Commission has your back: visit identitytheft.gov. Not only will the website give you advice specific to the type of Identity Theft that hit you, but you can set up a personalized recovery plan that keeps track of the steps you’ve taken and those you still need to take to get yourself back on track.
This information should help protect you from tdentity theft.
To file an identity theft complaint, call 877-382-4357 or visiting ftc.gov/complaint.
Jon Miller Steiger is the East Central Region Director of the Federal Trade Commission in Cleveland.