What You Should Know About Identity Theft December 8, 2015

Technological advancements in today’s society have changed nearly every aspect of everyday life. From communicating with loved ones to shopping for goods and services, all you need seems to only be a click or swipe away. Despite all the good that comes from the convenience of technology and online abilities, it’s easier now than ever to fall prey to identity theft thanks to the presence of malware and malicious phishing scams. Even so, there are guidelines you can follow to protect your identity. But more on that later; let’s first delve deeper into what identity theft is.

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a criminal act that occurs whenever a thief steals a person’s identity to carry out a fraudulent act. Identities can be stolen when thieves get ahold of personal information (e.g., full name, social security number, credit card information, account numbers, etc.). In addition to traditional methods, such as mail and telephone, thieves can use malware and various online scams to obtain this information. Unfortunately, people oftentimes do not realize their identities have been stolen until they notice something is financially amiss (e.g., unexpected credit collections, receipt of shady bills, etc.). Additionally, there are different types of identity theft you should be aware of, and they include:

  • Social Identity Theft – Happens when someone uses another person’s name, information and pictures to make fraudulent social media accounts.
  • Tax Identity Theft – Occurs when a thief uses a person’s social security number to illegally file taxes with the IRS or state government.
  • Medical Identity Theft – Arises when some someone steals another person’s healthcare information (e.g., health insurance information, Medicare ID) and uses it for his or her personal gain.
  • Senior Identity Theft – ID theft targeted toward senior citizens due in part to their access to life savings, healthcare benefits and retirement plans.

Identity Theft Prevention Tips

To keep your identity safe, it’s a great idea to follow these tips:

  1. Keep Your Social Security Number Safe – Never share your SSN; only do so when it’s absolutely necessary and when you know how/why it’s going to be used. Also, do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse.
  2. Shred Documents Containing Personal Information – These items include account statements, expired credit/debit cards and credit card offers. Shredding these documents ensures the information they contain doesn’t get into the wrong hands.
  3. Secure Your Personal Information in a Safe Location – We recommend keeping personal information in a safe or locked drawer.
  4. Be Weary of Suspicious Emails – It’s a good idea to refrain from opening suspicious emails and promptly delete them. If you do open a suspicious email, however, do not open any links.
  5. Update Your Passwords – Be sure to include different types of characters (e.g., letters, numbers and special symbols) to create a password that would be difficult to discover.
  6. Give Information Sparingly – Never respond to anything online or by phone or mail that asks for personal information.
  7. Order Yearly Credit Reports – Confirm these reports do not include accounts you did not personally open.

You can find more tips about how to protect yourself from identity theft here.

Contact Us for Legal Guidance

Identity theft is a serious criminal offense that brings along with it consequences for both the thief and, unfortunately, the victim. If you’ve fallen prey to an identity thief, and need legal advice about what to do next, please call the attorneys at Hayes, Berry, White & Vanzant at (940) 387-3518, or contact us here. We’ll be happy to be of assistance in any way we can!

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Richard D. Hayes

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