Identity theft is one of the fastest growing white-collar crimes affecting millions of Americans every year. That number will continue to grow into 2019 as personal information becomes more readily available in our online world.
What is identity theft? Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, such as Social Security number or credit card number, for financial gain, to commit crimes or other unlawful purposes. They may apply for a credit card, make unauthorized purchases, gain access to your bank account or get loans under your name.
Scammers use many different tactics to get access to your personal information. They go through garbage and recycling bins, send out phishing emails and will even call you directly claiming you’ve won a prize or qualified for a promotion. Scammers often pose as employees of your financial institution and ask for sensitive information. Without knowing the signs, it can be easy to fall victim to identity theft.
Better Business Bureau offers tips for keeping your identity safe:
• Don’t give out your Social Security number if you can help it. Default to other forms of identification. Don’t carry your Social Security number card, leave it at home in a secure place.
• Using complex passwords and don’t share them with anyone. Change passwords often.
• Be alert for phishing scams. Don’t click suspicious links sent via email or otherwise. If you don’t recognize the person sending it, delete it.
• Do not give out personal information over the phone, through the mail or over the internet unless you have initiated contact or know the business.
• Place outgoing mail in a secure mailbox. If you do not have a locked mailbox, pick up incoming mail as soon as possible. Stop mail delivery if you’re traveling.
• Check your credit report annually by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com or calling 877-322-8228.
• 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.
Bottomline is protect your personal information. Shred sensitive documents (bank statements, tax forms, utility bills and health forms) before throwing them away. Take advantage of BBB’s free shredding event, Secure Your ID Day presented by Routsong Funeral Home Inc. to be held on Saturday, Oct. 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 81 N. Main St. in Centerville. You can bring up to five boxes/bags of material to be shredded free.
If you think you may have been victimized by identity theft, watch for unexplained withdrawals or charges and monitor your accounts. If you discover fraud, contact your local authorities right away and notify your financial institutions and credit card companies immediately. Report scams to BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker. You can also check out businesses and charities with your BBB by visiting bbb.org or calling 937-222-5825 or 800-776-5301
The writer is the president and CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Dayton and Miami Valley.