Identity Theft Victims
If you have been a victim of identity theft, the Michigan State Police website has up to date step-by-step instructions on what to do to protect yourself from further financial harm. You can access their page here . You may also want to review the Michigan State Police Identity Theft Action Guide .
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is the fraudulent use of your name and identifying data by someone else to obtain credit, merchandise, money, or services. Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing financial crimes in the United States and globally, and the damages to consumers is becoming astronomical. Identity theft claims millions upon millions of victims each year. Identity theft is an equal opportunity crime, affecting victims of all races, religions, incomes, genders, or ages. I knows no limits in the modern internet era. Identity theft cannot be completely prevented, but you can minimize your risks by managing your personal information cautiously and diligently.
How Identity Theft Happens
There is a governmental standard to prove you are who you say you are consisting of three things: your name, your date of birth, and your social security number. In addition to these pieces of information, you also have numerous pieces of less secure personal identifying information like bank account numbers, cell phone numbers, email addresses, credit card numbers, and the like.
Thieves obtain your personal information and use it to open accounts, credit cards, and obtain merchandise under your name. Anonymous online identity thieves may also use your information to attempt to coerce you into providing additional personal details.
Access to Personal Information is becoming Easier for Thieves
Identity thieves frequently acquire your personal information from internet hacking sources which have led to data breaches. We all use commercial electronics routinely to process credit card transactions or apply for loans. Even if you apply on paper, it is likely that the bank or business you are working with digitizes your information and sends it over the internet. With data breaches becoming all too frequent, your personal data may be stolen without you even knowing it.
More rudimentary forms of identity theft can also occur. Thieves can sort through you trash (dumpster diving) or the trash at a business (like a car rental company). Thieves may steal your mail, or watch your internet usage over your shoulder while you're on your phone or tablet. Scammers can send e-mails or make unsolicited phone calls. If your wallet or purse is stolen, it is likely that the thief will be using your credit cards or debit cards for identity theft.
Minimizing the Risk
There are certain steps you can take to protect your personal information. Do not simply throw out documents that have personal identifying information; always cross shred. Opt out of unsolicited mailings or emails. Keep your financial documents secure, especially if you are having strangers, caregivers, or other service personnel in your home. Mail your bills or other personal information at a US Post Office mailbox, not from your mailbox in front of your house. Do not give your personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call to a known and trusted company. Check your credit report for free every year by going to www.annualcreditreport.comto make sure that you haven't unknowingly suffered identity theft.
More than anything, just BE CAUTIOUS with your personal information and do not give it out to someone you do not know or trust.