Protecting your identity will help protect your financial future

“In our modern world, with click-of-a-mouse speed, identity theft is a growing threat to you personally and financially,” says Doug Scotten, extension family financial education specialist.

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) considers three types of incidents to be identity theft. The incidents include the unauthorized use or attempted use of an existing account, the unauthorized use or attempted use of personal information to open a new account, and misuse of personal information for fraudulent purposes. BJS statistics indicate that in 2012, 16.6 million people reported being victims of identity theft in the U.S. The number of identity thefts rose 33 percent from 2005 to 2010.

The top five things identity thieves are looking for are your Social Security number, date of birth, your full legal name, account numbers (bank and credit card account numbers) and online passwords.

Once an identity thief has stolen your information, the threat to your personal life and personal finances begins. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Identity Theft Survey Report indicates the following uses of stolen information:

  • 50 percent to access credit card accounts
  • 19 percent to access bank accounts
  • 10 percent to access telephone accounts
  • 4 percent to make loans on items like cars and real estate
  • 4 percent to access Internet accounts
  • 2 percent to access insurance accounts
  • 1 percent other
photo of Doug Scotten, author
Doug Scotten is a family financial education specialist in Vernon County. Contact him at scottend@missouri.edu or 417-448-2560.

In 20 percent of the identity theft cases, information stolen from the victim was used to open new accounts in the victim’s name. Imagine the damage this can do to your both personally and financially. If you believe your identity has been stolen or compromised, immediately request a fraud alert from the three major credit bureaus ­— TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. The fraud alert will be placed on your credit line and will stay on your credit report for 90 days.

Second, request your credit report from the credit bureaus at http://www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 877-322-8228. This allows you to review your report to see if your accounts have been tampered with or new accounts have been opened.

Third, create an Identity Theft Report. To create this report, submit a report to the FTC. (See more information at http://identitytheft.gov.) Document details of the theft and print the document, which will serve as an Identity Theft Affidavit. Take the Identity Theft Affidavit to your local law enforcement agency and file a police report. Get a copy of the police report or police report number. The Identity Theft Affidavit and police report make up the Identity Theft Report, which is given to the FTC.

Be aware of other forms of identity theft as well. Medical identity theft occurs when your name or insurance number is used to seek medical treatment, obtain prescription drugs or file bogus claims with your insurance provider. Identity thieves are also targeting children’s Social Security numbers to apply for credit cards, loans, benefits, etc. Lastly, thieves are also committing tax related identity theft, by filing a tax-return under a stolen identity.

If you fall victim to identity theft or believe your identity has been compromised, act quickly. It takes time and diligence to resolve the problem. Continue to monitor your credit report and accounts, and change all of your passwords. Keep in contact with involved agencies and your creditors until the situation is resolved.