According to the Department of Justice*, “Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.”
With your personal information, an identity thief can create a new “you” in the real world and on the Internet. With a name, an address, a PIN or account number, these criminals can run up large bills in your name, apply for jobs, and cash checks. Identity theft doesn’t just take place online; it happens in the real world if you aren’t careful about protecting this sensitive personal information.
Identity theft can be more than a nuisance, having a negative impact on all areas of your personal life. In fact, many people are surprised at just how dangerous this crime is.
Identity theft can have a major impact on your lifestyle – one that may stick around for years. This crime can affect Social Security payments, tax refunds, availability of quality medical care, limit options for college financial aid, and even jeopardize obtaining a home loan. Here are a few consequences you may not have considered:
You May Not Get That Job.
If your identity has been compromised, it may hurt your prospects for landing a new job. Many employers routinely pull credit reports on applicants, and if your credit report shows a lot of debt and closed credit card accounts, you may not land the job of your dreams.
This is one reason to check your credit reports regularly. Some identity thieves can keep you in the dark so you don’t know you’ve been hacked for weeks and even months. Report any discrepancies to the credit card issuer, your local bank, and other businesses where you maintain accounts.
You could be arrested.
Hard to believe? If a criminal uses your driver’s license and other stolen forms of identification, you could actually be arrested and have some kind of criminal record. Innocent people have been arrested as the result of identity theft, so reporting lost or stolen personal information as soon as possible is a critical step in minimizing the damage caused by the identity thief.
Your insurance rates could increase.
Most insurance companies use credit reports to help determine rates paid by insured customers. A sloppy credit report that shows a lot of unpaid debt and bogus accounts may count against you when your insurer sets rates for home and auto insurance – a financial hit you take every month. Again, you may not even know you’ve been the victim of fraud – until it’s too late.
Identity theft is a serious crime with serious consequences – a crime you must report as soon as you determine your personal information has been stolen.
Take These Simple Steps to Help Protect Your Identity
- Never give out your PINs, even to trusted family members.
- Don’t carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet.
- Take in the mail quickly to avoid identity thieves looking for your latest credit card statement. Never leave a credit card payment in the mailbox for the same reason.
- Keep all receipts to compare against credit card charges.
- Open your credit card statement as soon as it arrives to look for fraudulent activity.
- Never give your credit card over the telephone unless you made the call.
- Change banking account and online PINs frequently. Bulk up passwords by using numbers and symbols as well as letters.
- Install security software on your home computer and download all updates. Computer hackers are always finding new ways to steal your personal information, and security software can provide updates to help protect you from the latest scam.
- Check your credit report at least once a year. Check it more frequently if you think you’ve been victimized.
- Report identity theft to your bank, to the local police, and to all credit agencies and stores where you have credit cards. Close compromised accounts.
- If you have been victimized, put a fraud alert on your credit report. You can even freeze your credit report until you resolve the problem.
Taking a proactive stance against identity theft may limit the number of negative “surprises” in your personal life. Take care in protecting personal information online and onMain Street.
You’re the first line of defense against identity theft. Stay vigilant and always be prepared to act quickly when you suspect any kind of fraudulent activity.
For more information about protecting yourself from identity theft, visit Nevada State Bank’s Fraud Protection web page.
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.
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