How Identity Theft Happens
Identity theft can be extremely harmful to your credit rating. It is very difficult to repair a credit report, and adding identity theft into the mix makes it that much harder. Anyone can fall victim to identity theft, as there are a variety of ways that thieves can do to obtain someone's personal information.
Some of the most common identity theft schemes include:
- Hacking & Data Breaches: Many businesses and organizations require personal information such as our social security number, credit cards, bank account information, and more. If a business or organization becomes the target of a cyber attack, this can leave hundreds or thousands of customers vulnerable to identity theft.
- Credit Card Theft: Many of us use credit cards for our daily purchases. These cards can pass through many hands and expose yourself to opportunities for someone to steal your credit card information.
- Visiting Unsecure Websites: If you make a purchase on a website that is not secure (HTTP sites), hackers can intercept your personal information and use it for their criminal activities.
- Mail Theft/Dumpster Diving: Although we still live in a digital age, many financial statements and tax documents are still sent via paper mail. If you have an unsecure mail box or fail to shred your documents before discarding them, thieves can intercept your personal data.
Once a thief obtains your personal information, they can change your mailing address for your bank, open new credit cards, take out loans in your name, open bank accounts in your name, and etc.
Ways to Prevent Identity Theft
Identity theft can happen to anyone, and we often don't notice the effects until it is too late. It is important that you take extra measures to prevent it from happening to you.
Here are some ways to prevent identity theft:
- Shred sensitive documents: With the New Year approaching, many people take "out with the old and in with the new" a bit too far. If you are doing your spring cleaning early, you should be particularly careful to shred any documents that contain personal information. Throwing away personal information exposes you to the risk of identity theft.
- Only visit secure websites: When doing online shopping, only trust sites that are secure and use HTTPS, which prevents hackers from obtaining a customer's personal data.
- Monitor your credit using free credit reports: You are entitled to a free credit report every year. Regularly checking your credit reports for any suspicious activity can help you prevent your credit from being further damaged.
- Monitor your bank accounts: Check your bank account statements on a regular basis to make sure that there are no unauthorized charges.
If you have been the victim of identity theft and your credit report contains errors as a result, contact Atlas Consumer Law to learn more about how to correct credit report errors.