Identity theft is a growing crime that continues to plague millions of Americans every year with losses estimated at the billions of dollars. Identity theft is not new. Hijacking a person’s identity in the past was done by using his personal information in a fake passport or gaining access to his bank accounts by using personal information found in a stolen wallet. This might sound crude but they are equally effective as obtaining information through phishing or malware.
Today’s technology has made many things easier including gaining access to personal information. Everyday millions of Americans share their personal information online for almost any transaction. This is a fact that is not lost to those wishing access to our personal accounts. In fact, this is even more dangerous since unlike losing our wallet, we are not aware that our personal identification has been used until creditors come knocking down your door.
Fact 1: Identity Theft Protection Services Does Not Make You Immune to Attacks
How can an identity theft service protect you when you lose your wallet? Identity Protection services only notify you of sudden changes in your personal account details such as your address or when there are major changes in your credit score. Some of these services include software for protecting your information when going online.
Fact 2: The One Million-Guarantee
Some of us have the misconception that the one million-guarantee is like a financial blanket that would reimburse us for all our financial losses. But the one million-guarantee only covers any expenses incurred during the recovery process.
Important Steps in Recovering your Identity
Check your financial accounts, credit report
When identity theft is suspected, the first thing to do is to verify this by checking your credit report or calling your bank. Having online access to your bank account for example is a convenient way of monitoring your financial activity in real time.
Report the Fraud
Once you have confirmed that unauthorized transactions have been made, the next step is to file a report to the three major credit unions and government agencies. Filing a report with the three major credit unions a “Fraud Alert” is placed on your file and no new credit will be granted without your approval.
- Report to the 3 Major Credit Unions
You only have to file a report with one of the credit bureaus. The law requires that this information should be shared with the other two.
- Report to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Submit a report to the FTC by going to www.ftc.gov or getting in touch by calling 1-877-ID-THEFT
- Other Agencies
Social Security Administration – Social security numbers have always been a favorite target for personal identity thieves. More alarming is that even a child’s SSN is being targeted. In some cases, SSN of the deceased has been used to claim benefits.
Postal Inspection Services – subtle changes including a change of address are hard to notice but clearly indicates that somebody else is planning to use your identity to commit a crime.
- Police Report
Identity theft is a crime and should be treated as such. Report the incident to the police department who has jurisdiction where your identity was stolen. A police report is an invaluable document when you plan to pursue you case in court.
Time is essential, it limits your financial exposure to abuse and when it is reported before the card is used it absolves you of any liabilities due to unauthorized use. One important thing to remember is that charges for unauthorized use of your credit card is only limited to “$50.” This also stands true even when your credit card is used at an ATM for a cash advance.
ATM/ Debit Card
ATM and Debit cards are not accorded the same level of protection as credit cards. There are certain limitations as to your liability when your cards are stolen. Time is again of the essence and reporting its loss immediately could save you the trouble down the road.
Before it is used –if you report the loss before it is used then you are not held liable for any unauthorized withdrawals.
Within 2 business days – liability is limited to $50
After 2 business days but within 60 days – limited to $500 of what is withdrew
After 60 days – great likelihood of you losing all your money withdrawn after and before 60 days
Fact 3: Identity Theft Protection is not always High-tech
Not all identity theft cases are high tech. We might think that criminals may gain access to our personal information by hacking bank sites or obtaining it through malicious software embedded in our emails. But this could also be done by stealing our wallets or just looking at our trash. All documents which might contain any of our personal information should be disposed properly. The trash bin does not deter the most determined criminal.
Fact 4: The Best Identity Theft Protection Is Free
Your best protection against identity protection is yourself. Taking a proactive approach towards guarding your personal information is the best defense against personal identity theft. Even the best personal identity protection services are useless if we don’t take care of our personal information.