We hear in the news that we should be concerned about identity theft. For many of us, we don??t think we are at risk, but we are. We invited Jeff Romine, partner, with the Financial Planners of Missouri, to discus identity theft and how to protect ourselves.
Ela: Should we be concerned about identify theft?
Jeff: Yes, you should be concerned about protecting your identity. Everyone has vulnerability. Identity thieves can empty your bank account, max out your credit cards, open new accounts in your name, and purchase furniture, cars, and even homes on the basis of your credit history. If they give your personal information to the police during an arrest and then don't show up for a court date, you may be subsequently arrested and jailed. You should take steps to avoid the headache and expense of cleaning up the mess a thief leaves behind.
One source I found indicated that 7% of all adults in America have their identities misued with each instance resulting in approximately $3,500 in losses.
Ela: If your identity is stolen, what should you do?
Jeff: First, take charge yourself immediately. Don??t assume that someone is going to fix it for you. Become knowledgeable immediately with the sources that are available to you.
One source that we recommend you immediately access is:
Taking Charge: What to do if Your Identity is Stolen available online by the Federal Trade Commission and can be found at: http://www.ftc.gov
This source tells you to:
First and immediately, place an initial fraud alert with the credit reporting companies. You should be able to call one, tell them you are an identity theft victim and confirm that they will contact the other two companies.
The initial fraud alert stays on your report for 90 days and you can renew if after 90 days. It will be very important to monitor your credit report. Record the dates you make your calls, and keep copies of letters.
Contact the police,and file a police report. Get a copy of the report or the report number for your files.
Consider placing a credit freeze on your credit file, so that potential creditors cannot get your credit report. That makes it less likely that an identity thief can open a new account in your name.
Contact the related businesses if you know your account has been tampered with. Talk to someone in the fraud department and follow up with communications in writing using certified mail.
Ela: What can you do to prevent identity theft on your own?
Jeff: You hear the message often.
- encrypt your data, be wise about wifi, keep passwords private, don??t overshare on social networking sites, lock your laptop, remove your social security number from your purse or wallet, don??t carry your passport unless required, and read privacy policies.
- Never give out your social security number to someone who calls you: inquire why someone needs your social security number,
- Keep your important papers secure: lock them up, limit what you carry, be careful with your mail, shred sensitive documents, keep documents like your your tax return private, consider opting out of prescreened offers of credit at 888 567-8688.
- Be alert to impersonators online. Legitimate companies do not ask for your personal information by email.
- Protect your computer and mobile devices: Use anti-virus software, anti-spyware, firewalls, and don??t open files sent by strangers. , .
Ela: Are there services that one can acquire to help protect your identity?
Jeff: There are companies that for a fee will sell protection. They usually cost around $100 per year. They fall into one of two categories:
(1) They will freeze your credit; if you pick a company that freezes your credit, you have to contact the company if you want to open a new line of credit.
(2) they will monitor your credit. If you pick a company that monitors your credit, they will notify you whenever a new line of credit is applied for.
Jeff Romine, Ph.D., CPA, Investment Advisor Representative
Financial Planners of Missouri
110 S. Franklin
Kirksville, MO. 63501