According to the US Department of Justice, more than 17 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year. As the 2017 tax filing deadline draws near, put the following tips into practice and reduce the chance that you'll be one of them.
- Freeze your credit. Contacting the three major credit bureaus and placing a freeze on your credit is the #1 way to prevent financial fraud. Criminals are prevented from opening accounts and loans in your name. When you need access, contact them a request a temporary thaw.
- Read your credit card, bank, pay, and health statements carefully. Look for unusual or unexpected transactions. Many financial institutions offer monitoring and alerts for transactions based on patterns or specific amounts.
- Shred it! Shred any documents with personal, financial, or medical information before you throw them away.
- Take advantage of free annual credit reports. In the US, the three major credit reporting agencies provide a free credit report once a year upon request. Many financial institutions offer credit monitoring services as well.
- Limit the personal information you share on social media. Also, check your privacy settings every time you update an application or operating system (or at least every few months).
- Put a passphrase on it. Protect your online accounts and mobile devices with strong, unique passphrases.
- Secure your devices. Encrypt your hard drive, use a VPN, and ensure that your systems, apps, antivirus software, and plug-ins are up-to-date.
If you become a victim of identity theft:
- File a report with the US Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov.
- Use the identity theft report to file a police report. Make sure you keep a copy of both reports in a safe place.
- Flag your credit reports by contacting the fraud departments of any one of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax (800-525-6285), Experian(888-397-3742), or TransUnion (800-680-7289).
- Contact the Iowa Attorney General's Office to report the crime and receive an ID Theft Passport.
If you have questions or would like to learn more about these tips, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Peter Lundstedt, Director, Information Security & Compliance, ITS