Identity theft is a topic that’s more relevant than ever in our hyper-connected world. In fact, of the 5.7 million fraud and identity theft reports received by the FTC so far this year, 1.4 million (25%) were identity theft cases.
That’s a staggering number, and experts predict that it will only accelerate in the years to come. So, how can you protect yourself from this growing problem? Fear not! We’ve got you covered.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some tips to shield yourself from identity theft, 25 warning signs you shouldn’t ignore, and practical steps to protect your digital identity.
Also, in case you missed How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft – Part 1, we discussed the growing epidemic of identity theft and sixteen of the most common ways your identity can be stolen. If you missed that article, we recommend reading as well.
25 Warning Signs of Identity Theft You Shouldn’t Ignore
Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated, constantly devising new methods to steal your personal information and wreak havoc on your financial life. That’s why it’s essential to be vigilant and stay informed about the warning signs of identity theft.
From unfamiliar charges on your bank statement to emails alerting you of data breaches, each sign serves as a crucial indicator that your identity may be at risk. So, let’s dive into these 25 warning signs and empower you to protect your identity.
- Unfamiliar Charges on Your Bank Statement: Check every transaction on your bank statement and contact your bank if you spot unfamiliar purchases.
- Strange or Unrecognized Credit Card Charges: Scrutinize your credit card statements for any unusual transactions and report them to your credit card company right away.
- New Credit Cards or Loans in Your Name: If you discover new credit accounts you didn’t open, freeze your credit and request a credit report.
- You’re Denied Credit: Rejection for credit you should qualify for could signal someone else is hijacking your credit.
- Hard Inquiries on Your Credit Report: Unfamiliar hard inquiries suggest someone is applying for credit in your name.
- A Sudden Drop in Your Credit Score: Monitor your credit score for sudden decreases that could indicate fraud.
- Bounced Checks (When You Have Funds): A bounced check might mean someone accessed your bank account without your knowledge.
- Unexpected Calls from Debt Collectors: Calls from unknown collection agencies may indicate identity theft.
- Calls Verifying Unfamiliar Purchases: Be cautious if asked to verify unfamiliar purchases and report unauthorized attempts.
- Unfamiliar Bills or Packages Arrive at Your Home: Strange bills or packages may indicate fraud, so contact the company involved.
- Missing Mail: Identity thieves may reroute your mail, leading to missing bills and statements.
- Your Utilities Are Suddenly Shut Off: Unauthorized changes to your utility services can be a sign of identity theft.
- Unfamiliar Medical Bills: Report strange medical bills promptly, which may indicate medical identity theft.
- Your Health Insurance Benefits Limit Is Maxed Out: Check for unauthorized maxing out of your health insurance benefits.
- Inaccurate Information in Your Medical Files: Address discrepancies in your medical records immediately.
- Someone Stole Your Income Tax Refund: If you receive IRS notifications about unauthorized tax filings, act swiftly.
- Reported Income That’s Not Yours: Check for tax documents from unknown employers.
- There’s a Warrant Out for Your Arrest: If wrongly targeted by law enforcement due to identity theft, contact authorities to clear your name.
- Your ID Is Lost or Stolen: Losing your ID can put you at risk, so monitor your personal information closely.
- You Can’t Sign into an Account: Repeated login failures or unfamiliar website designs may suggest phishing attempts.
- An Account Looks Different When You Log In: A different website appearance may indicate a phishing attack.
- Suspicious Login Attempts to Your Accounts: Alerts about unauthorized login attempts should be investigated.
- Authentication Messages for Accounts You Don’t Recognize: Receiving verification requests for unknown accounts is a red flag.
- Emails Alerting You of a Data Breach: Take data breach notifications seriously and change your passwords accordingly.
- You Receive a Fraud Alert: Consider using identity theft protection services like Aura for proactive monitoring and remediation in case of identity theft.
13 Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
In today’s digital age, where our lives are increasingly intertwined with the online world, the threat of identity theft looms larger than ever before. Cybercriminals are continually devising new ways to exploit personal information, making it essential for individuals and families to take proactive steps to protect themselves.
So, how can you protect yourself? Let’s dive in.
#1 – Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft with Co-op Insurance
Co-op Insurance understands the gravity of combatting identity theft and offers comprehensive solutions to help safeguard your identity and financial well-being. We’ve partnered with CyberScout, a leading identity management and data theft protection company, to offer our policyholders a robust suite of protection services.
To empower our customers with knowledge and tools to protect themselves and their families from the latest identity theft threats, we’ve created a dedicated ID theft resource site packed with valuable information and expert insights. Here, you can stay informed about emerging threats and learn practical steps to mitigate your risk.
Co-op Insurance homeowners, mobile-home owners, farm, and mini-farm policyholders can access a host of identity theft protection services that come at no extra premium cost.
Here’s what you can expect when you have Co-op Insurance on your side:
- Credit and Fraud Monitoring
- Co-op Insurance policyholders receive a 3-in-1 credit report, allowing them to stay informed about any suspicious activities. Additionally, you’ll benefit from a year of weekly credit monitoring, fraud monitoring, and threat alerts. These services provide continuous oversight of your credit and financial activities, giving you an early warning system against potential threats.
- Notification Services
- In the event of identity theft, time is of the essence. CyberScout will take immediate action on your behalf by notifying credit bureaus, creditors, government agencies, and all other relevant parties about the theft. This proactive approach helps contain the damage and prevent further fraudulent activities.
- Personal Advocate
- Should your identity be stolen, you won’t navigate the daunting process alone. CyberScout provides you with a personal advocate who will work closely with you, handling all necessary phone calls and document preparations required to resolve your identity theft case. You’ll have a dedicated expert in your corner, ensuring a smoother and more efficient recovery process.
- Comprehensive Case File Creation
- A well-documented case is essential for working with insurance and law enforcement agencies. CyberScout will assist in creating a comprehensive case file, which can be invaluable in pursuing legal action against the perpetrators and recovering your losses.
- Expert Guidance
- Education is a key component of identity theft protection. CyberScout will provide you with a year of proactive tips, education, and follow-up calls to help you avoid recurrence. Their experts will guide you in making informed decisions to fortify your defenses against identity theft.
Don’t wait until it’s too late—take advantage of the invaluable resources and services offered by Co-op Insurance today. Visit our ID theft resource site to get started on your path to a more secure future. Your identity is worth protecting, and Co-op Insurance is here to help you every step of the way.
#2 – Safely Store Documents
Store documents with your personal information, including financial documents, Social Security, Medicare, and credit cards in a safe place at home and work.
Limit what you carry. Leave your social security card and Medicare card at home – unless you need them for a specific reason.
#3 – Secure Your Social Security Number
Think of your Social Security number as the master key to your personal data, and be wary about sharing it. When someone asks for your number, don’t be afraid to ask them why they need it and how they’ll keep it safe.
And here’s a golden rule: don’t lug that card around with you everywhere you go. Instead, stash it away safely. When you’re done with paperwork that has your Social Security number on it be sure to shred it.
#4 – Freeze Your Credit
You can freeze your credit with the big three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This freeze stops anyone from peeking into your credit history or opening new credit lines in your name.
The best part? It won’t cost you a dime or hurt your credit score, and you can easily unlock it whenever you need to open a new account. This is a great defense against sneaky identity thieves using your info to start fresh with a new account.
#5 – Supercharge Your Passwords
Passwords are like the locks on your digital doors, so make them strong and unique. Get a trusty password manager to whip up and store these digital fortresses. And please, don’t commit the cardinal sin of password reuse – one password per account, no excuses!
You can also strengthen your defenses with an authenticator app, adding an extra layer of protection to your accounts. And, for the love of your digital well-being, let’s not put all our faith in those security questions. Your mother’s maiden and pet names are practically open books for hackers.
Pro tip: Think twice about what you’re posting on social media. You wouldn’t want to accidentally spill the beans on the answers to those security questions, right?
#6 – Set Up Alerts
Here’s a nifty trick: lots of banks and financial institutions offer this useful feature where they shoot you a quick text or email whenever something fishy happens with your accounts. It’s like having a digital watchdog that barks whenever there’s action.
So, why not sign up for these alerts?
You’ll be in the know about every move your credit cards make, whether it’s a purchase, a withdrawal, or even a deposit. It’s your money, after all – and you should always be the first to know what it’s up to!
#7 – Unleash Your Inner Shredder
Your trash can is like a treasure chest for identity thieves. Yup, those credit card statements, bank statements, and investment papers are like gold to them. So, don’t make it easy for them.
Get yourself a shredder and make it a ritual. Take those unwanted papers, especially those pesky preapproved credit offers, and give them a one-way ticket to the shredder.
#8 – Embrace the Digital Wallet Trend
When it comes to online or in-store payments, consider jumping on the digital wallet bandwagon. These nifty apps are for credit and debit cards.
Every transaction is encrypted, which means it’s very secure, so you can shop online or tap away at a checkout terminal without breaking a sweat.
#9 – Keep Your Mobile Devices Secure
Okay, let’s talk about our beloved mobile devices. They’re like our trusty sidekicks in the digital world, but sometimes, we forget to give them the security treatment they deserve.
Here’s the deal: A recent study found that only about 48% of us bother to lock our mobile gadgets regularly. Yikes!
So, let’s change that. Set up strong passwords on your devices. When you’re doing your banking stuff, it’s a smart move to use a dedicated banking app instead of just cruising around in your mobile browser.
#10 – Monitor Your Credit Reports
This one is easier than you might think. The big three credit reporting companies–Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion–offer free credit reports every week, and you can view them at AnnualCreditReport.com. Give those reports a good look to make sure everything’s legitimate.
Be sure to check for any accounts you don’t recognize.
#11 – Monitor Financial and Medical Statements
Stay on top of your financial and medical statements. Take a good look at your statements and ensure every transaction is familiar.
Also, be on the lookout for any bills that seem to be playing hide and seek – if you’re expecting one and it doesn’t show up, call the sender to see what’s going on.
And when it comes to those “explanation of benefits” statements from your healthcare peeps, give them a thorough review to ensure you recognize all the services they’re discussing to help prevent healthcare fraud.
#12 – Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Beef up your account security with multi-factor authentication, or MFA for short!
MFA is like having a secret handshake to get into your accounts. It’s not just about using a password; you need at least two different things to prove you are who you say you are.
These things can fall into two categories: stuff you have (like a special code sent to your phone or an app that gives you access) or stuff you are (like your fingerprint, your eye scan, or your pretty face).
So, if scammers somehow snatch your username and password, MFA steps in to block access to your personal information. It’s an extra layer of protection to keep your accounts safe.
#13 – Software and App Updates
Don’t forget to keep your software and apps up to date to stay safe from identity theft! It’s important to install those updates as soon as they pop up on your screen.
Well, a lot of these updates patch security gaps that hackers love to exploit. So, when your phone or computer gives you the nudge to update your software, just go ahead and do it. It’s like giving your digital fortress an extra layer of protection.
What to Do if Your Identity is Stolen
Dealing with identity theft can be a real headache, but there are steps you can take to minimize the damage and keep yourself safe. You might not even realize it’s happened until it’s too late, and you probably won’t know who the culprit is. But, if your identity is stolen, here’s what you can do:
- Act fast: As soon as you suspect your identity has been stolen, take action. Report any lost bank cards or suspicious activity on your financial statements.
- Call the right people: Get in touch with your bank and other companies where the fraud occurred. Let them know what’s happened and ask them to confirm in writing that the accounts were closed or that fraudulent transactions are being investigated.
- Alert the credit agencies: Contact one of the major credit-rating agencies (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) and ask them to place a fraud alert on your account. This makes it harder for anyone to open credit in your name. Get confirmation letters from the agencies about the actions they’ve taken.
- Create an Identity Theft Affidavit: Reach out to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create an “Identity Theft Affidavit.” You don’t need to be a legal expert – just follow the steps.
- File a police report: Take your Identity Theft Affidavit to your local police department and report the incident. Bring identification and proof of address, along with any other evidence of the theft.
- Make your Identity Theft Report: Combine the FTC Identity Theft Affidavit with your police report to create an Identity Theft Report. This report will be essential when dealing with various financial matters.
Remember, it’s crucial to act swiftly and document everything you do to reclaim your identity. Your journey to recovery might be bumpy, but these steps will help you regain control. Don’t forget to contact your employer to reroute electronic paychecks while you’re at it.
Your digital identity is a valuable asset that deserves protection in our ever-connected world. As we conclude our exploration of guarding your digital identity, it’s clear that being proactive and informed is the key to staying one step ahead of identity thieves.
From recognizing the warning signs to taking practical steps like freezing your credit, securing your devices, and embracing multi-factor authentication, you have the tools to defend yourself against the ever-evolving threats of identity theft.
Remember, your identity is worth protecting, and resources, such as identity theft protection services from Co-op Insurance, are available to help you along the way.
Take action today to safeguard your identity and financial well-being, and stay vigilant in this digital age where personal information is more valuable than ever. Together, we can fortify our defenses and keep our digital identities safe and secure.
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*Disclaimer: We offer content for informational purposes; Co-operative Insurance Companies may not provide all the services or products listed here. Please contact your local agent to learn how we can help with your insurance needs.
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