AUBURN, Alabama — Identity theft is among the top three consumer complaints in the United States in 2017, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
It seems that in today’s society, many purchases begin with one of the following statements.
- Swipe your credit card here.
- Insert your credit card into the chip reader below.
What would people do without credit cards, debit cards and online payment resources?
Be careful in making transactions
How careful are we when making transactions? Having your identity stolen is easier than you might think, and the recovery process can be extensive.
“The Department of Justice reports the most common concern of identity theft is the misuse of credit cards,” said Dr. Theresa Jones, a certified financial education instructor and Alabama Extension regional agent in Family Resource Management & Workforce Development. “Credit card theft accounts for about half of the cases of identity theft.”
Jones gained expertise in identity theft through teaching strategies and tips to program participants for more than 10 years. She bases her lectures on the Federal Trade Commissions’ recommendations to help prevent individuals from becoming victims.
Steps to take if your identity is stolen
Jones suggests these steps to help you resolve the issue and regain control of your personal information if you are the victim of identity theft.
1. Close accounts that have been tampered with or opened without your consent immediately. In addition, change logins, passwords and PINS for all of your accounts.
2. Immediately place a Fraud Alert on your credit reports by calling any one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies.
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285,
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289.
3. Order and review your credit report carefully for any fraudulent activity that you have no knowledge of and are not your transactions.
4. Report that you are a victim of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at IdentityTheft.gov. Your report proves to businesses that someone stole your identity. It also guarantees you certain rights.
IdentityTheft.gov is a comprehensive, online resource. It provides extensive information on dealing with identity theft as well as checklists and sample letters.
5. File a local police report.
According to Jones, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year or more for someone to realize that their identity has been stolen. This heavily depends on how often you check your financial records.
To reduce the chances of your identity being stolen, always shred financial documents and credit card offers received in the mail before throwing them away.
To learn more about identity theft, contact your county Extension office. Ask about the free Identity Theft Workshop provided by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.