Identity Theft

Identity (ID) Theft and Protection Service

Identity theft is very stressful for victims. Identity theft occurs when someone uses information about you without your permission. They could use your name and address, your date of birth, credit card or bank account numbers, Social Security number (SSN), medical insurance account numbers, driver’s license number, or any other information to access your financial resources.

Once identity thieves obtain your personal information, they can drain your bank account, buy things with your credit cards, get new credit cards, open a phone, electricity, or gas account, get medical treatment on your health insurance, or pretend to be you if they are arrested.

An identity thief can file a tax return in your name and steal your tax refund. The tax-related identity theft occurs when your SSN has been fraudulently used for a tax refund or a job. If your e-filed tax return is rejected due to a duplicate filing under your SSN, you are highly likely to have become a victim of tax-related identity theft. The number of tax returns with confirmed identity theft was about 597,000 during 2017, according to the IRS.

How Common Is Identity Theft? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have had their identities stolen each year. The Marriott data breach is the latest and the largest - affected as many as 500 million people - hack in the line of data breaches in the past few years. With major data breaches making headlines, many consumers are realizing that credit card fraud or identity theft can happen to anyone.

How to protect yourself from data breaches and scams?Sign Up for an Identity theft protection service to monitor your identity, catch identity theft early, and restore your identity to pre-theft status when identity theft does occur. As a Licensed Independent Associate with LegalShield, I invite you to click on LegalShield Plans to learn more and choose a plan. IDShield, a product of  LegalShield, offers the most comprehensive  protection and restoration -- IDShield’s plan for individuals is just $9.95 per month (for Family $24.95 per month). If your identity gets stolen, IDShield will put the Kroll investigative firm on the case and spend up to $5 million to restore your credit.

To protect yourself, you shouldn’t send financial information through e-mails -- e-mails are vulnerable to hacking. Never respond to unsolicited requests for personal information, whether it’s someone showing up at your door, calling you on the phone, or sending you an e-mail. Some e-mails link to sham websites that look real.

Federal law allows you to get a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the major credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). Click on Links to access useful links, such as Get Free Annual Credit Report, Get Your Credit Scores. A lot of activity may not show up directly on your credit report, including when someone else applies for your tax refund or gets a job using your Social Security number.

Here are a few precautions you can take to protect your identity:

  • Check your each credit card statement for unexplained charges.
  • If two-factor authentication is available, set it up. This prevents anyone from accessing your account even if they have your password.
  • Back up your data frequently (use Cloud Storage or USB flash drive) to protect your data in the event of an operating system crash, hardware failure, or virus attack.
  • Secure Your Router to protect your network from attacks over the internet. Your router directs traffic between your local network and the internet.  If you do not secure your router, hackers could gain access to sensitive information on your device. Hackers could seize control of your router, to direct you to fraudulent websites.
  • Use protections like antivirus, anti-spyware, and a firewall -- and keep these protections up-to-date. When hackers find unprotected computers, they try to install hidden software – called malware – that allows them to control the computers remotely.
  • Set your social media accounts to private or friends-only. Don’t volunteer information about your whereabouts, your family members, your plans, your lifestyle, and your preferences on your social media pages.

Identity thieves typically obtain personal information about individuals in the following ways:

  • Dumpster diving - searching through the trash for personal information
  • Retrieving personal data from storage media including mobile phones, USB memory sticks and hard drives that were disposed of at waste dumps
  • Stealing bank or credit cards, id cards, or passports by pick-pocketing, housebreaking, or mail stealing out of a mailbox
  • Using public records such as electoral rolls
  • Shoulder-Surfing - looking over a person's shoulder to gather personal information. It is relatively easy to observe someone filling out forms, entering PIN numbers on ATMs, or typing passwords on smartphones. Shoulder surfing can also be done long distance using binoculars and video cameras.
  • Stealing personal information from computers using malware/spyware such as Trojan horse keystroke logging programs.
  • Hacking computer networks and databases to obtain personal data
  • Stealing information in a data breach - Hackers stole information on as many as 500 million guests of the Marriott hotel empire over four years, obtaining credit card and passport numbers and other personal data
  • Advertising bogus job offers to accumulate resumes and applications showing applicants' personal information
  • Phishing personal data from online resumes, job sites, or LinkedIn profiles
  • Diverting victims' email to obtain personal information
  • Pretexting - presenting oneself as someone else in order to obtain private information.
  • Check fraud - a thief steals an account number to write fake checks in the account holder's name.
  • Befriending strangers on social media sites and earning their trust to obtain private information

For those taxpayers who receive a ‘phishing’ email, the IRS provides this advice:

  • Do not reply to the message.
  • Don’t give out your personal or financial information.
  • Forward the email to phishing@irs.gov. Then delete it.
  • Do not open any attachments or click on any links. They may have malicious code that will infect your computer.

More information on Identity Protection: Prevention, Detection, and Victim Assistance is available on IRS.gov.

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