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4 Steps to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Cyber security images to show identify theft
I just read this article in Bankrate.com about Identity theft; with four important steps to protect yourself from being part of a hack. Bankrate.com is a leading aggregator of financial rate information, offering an unparalleled depth and breadth of rate data and financial content.

“We’re all paying for this type of fraud,” says Axton Betz-Hamilton, an identity theft expert and assistant professor of consumer studies at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. That’s because when banks and credit card companies write off fraudulent loans, they recoup those losses through higher interest rates.

The number of fraud victims increased by 3% in 2015 to its second highest level in 6 years. In all, 41 million U.S. adults have had their identities stolen. According to the article, as identity fraud increases, more Americans are looking at ways they can thwart would-be fraudsters from gaining info on their bank accounts.

4 Important Steps to Protect Yourself
There are things you can do to protect yourself from ID theft, including these 4 steps:

  • Regularly shred unnecessary documents containing sensitive information.
  • Check your credit reports regularly.
  • Avoid doing banking or other sensitive business on unsecured Wi-Fi networks that do not require a password.
  • Change your passwords, security answers and questions

A recent Bankrate survey found that American’s are better at some of these protection measures than others; noting that 71% of adults shred sensitive documents, and 61% say they avoid using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection. But you need to do all 4 steps to ensure your own protection.

What to do if you think you’ve been hacked
If you think you’ve been hacked, immediately check your credit reports and notify affected creators or bank. Let the Office of the Inspector General know if your Social Security number has been fraudulently used. Ask for a copy of your Personal Earnings and Benefits Statement and check for accuracy. The next step, freeze your credit to keep potential creditors from seeing your report and, more importantly, to ensure that no one can open a new line of credit in your name until the freeze is lifted. Freezing your credit is free through the major credit bureaus if you can document you’re a victim of ID theft. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay a nominal fee.

Other things to do if you think you’ve been compromised include filing a police report, putting a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting the FTC at 1 (877) 438-4338 and most importantly, filling out the ID theft complaint and affidavit form at the FTC’s website. Together with a police report, it serves as your ID theft report, which will help you dispute fraudulent accounts. You’ll also want to get a new drivers license number and contact your telephone and utility companies.
I hope you put these things into action. Just last month, a data breach impacting 500 million Yahoo user accounts sent users scrambling to make sure their identity wasn’t compromised. Had they put these 4 protection measures into action, the news of identity thieves would not have caused such anxiety.

Meantime, if you’re considering using your good credit to purchase a home in Montecito, Hope Ranch or any of Santa Barbara’s upscale communities, I’m here to help. Please take a look at my comprehensive website then call me at 805.886.9378 or email me at Cristal@montecito-estate.com.

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