Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, such as a driver’s license number, Social Security number, date of birth, credit card, etc, to commit fraud or other crimes. With this information, a thief can pretend to be you to take out a mortgage or loan, apply for a job or use your medical insurance. It is likely that your information is already in the wrong hands for potential future use. In fact, The IRS recently reported a tax refund scam that is approaching $20 billion and growing nearly 50% annually.
If you’re a victim of identity theft, it can be a financial burden, emotionally taxing and time consuming as one navigates through the channels of resolution.
What should you do to help prevent identity theft?
- Shred all sensitive documents. Make sure your shredder is a type that crosscuts or micro cuts. A traditional strip shredder is not adequate and the documents can be pieced back together. Did you see the move “Argo”?
- Use a “strong” password for on-line accounts.
- Secure computers with firewalls, anti-virus and anti-malware software.
- Protect your personal information, especially Social Security numbers. I still shudder to think of the days that we were mailed annual tax booklets to our mailbox with the name and SSN in clear view.
- Keep a minimal number of credit cards and always carefully check the statements.
Many homeowner insurance policies provide coverage if you are a victim of identity fraud. Look for a policy that provides expense reimbursements and consultative services from a professional firm.
Woller-Anger & Company hosts an annual shred day – an opportunity to have your sensitive documents destroyed by a
professional shredding company. See our events page for more information.
(First published 03-19-2015)