Financial Identity Theft
Identity thieves could rent an apartment, withdraw funds from your bank account, run up debts, receive medical history or treatment, or commit crimes using your name. If this happens to you, you could incur more than just financial losses, but also struggle to restore your reputation and correct false information for which the criminal is responsible. Victims of identity theft may lose out on job opportunities or be denied loans for education, housing, or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. Some may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.
How does ID Theft happen?
In 2013 Florida ranked number one in the nation for reported identity theft with 192.9 complaints per 100,000 residents totaling 37,720. Identity thieves often use these methods below to steal your personal information:
Phishing or pretexting. They use false pretenses to lure you into releasing private information about financial institutions, telephone companies, utilities, and other sources. Or they can pursue the other end of the connection and pretend to be you, all the while extracting personal details from organizations you do business with.
Stealing. They steal your wallet or purse with your credit cards, drivers license, etc.; your mail, looking for bank or credit card statements, new checks, or tax information; or your personnel records.
Dumpster diving. They dig through trash looking for receipts, bills, or statements you threw away.
Skimming. They steal your number when you swipe your credit (or debit) card.
Changing your address. They divert your mail by requesting a change of address with the post office.
Searching. They find public information on internet sources such as free public records sites and fee-based information broker sites.
These methods may be used independently or could complement each other, depending on the sophistication of the attack.
Reduce your Risk
Like most crimes, there is no perfect way to prevent identity theft from happening, but you can reduce your risk.
For an identity thief to be successful, he or she must first have access to your personal information. To protect yourself, limit access. For some simple tips, please see our FAQ on Identity Theft, and for more information, visit the Privacy Rights Cleaninghouse.
Every year, you can request free copies of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. You could regularly check for fraudulent activity on a different one of these reports every four months. Visit the official site at annualcreditreport.com.
Report ID Theft
If you are worried that your information may have fallen into someone else’s hands without your consent, contact the credit bureaus and the Federal Trade Commission as soon as possible. The FTC’s Identity Theft site offers specific steps to follow.
The State of Florida provides a Florida Identity Theft Victim kit for residents of Florida as well as individuals from other states who believe their identity may have been fraudulently used in Florida.
For more information
- Electronic Privacy Information Center on Identity Theft
- Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Website
- Florida Division of Consumer Services on Identity Theft
- Florida’s Attorney General on Identity Theft
- President’s Identity Theft Task Force
- Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Identity Theft Resources
- Social Security Administration - Identity Theft, fraud or misuse of Social Security or Medicare Card
- United States Department of Justice on Identity Theft
- FTC Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2013