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Identity Theft: Be Safe Not Sorry

Identity Theft: Be Safe Not Sorry

AUBURN, Alabama — Identity theft was among the top three consumer complaints in the United States in 2017, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

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.

Be Careful When Making Transactions

“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 Human Sciences.

How careful are you when making transactions? Someone stealing your identity is easier than you might think, and the recovery process can be extensive. What would people do without credit cards, debit cards and also online payment resources?

Credit card theft accounts for about half of the cases of identity theft. 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.

Steps to Take If Your Identity is Stolen

  • Order and review your credit report carefully for any fraudulent activity that you have no knowledge of and are not your transactions
  • Immediately close accounts opened without your consent or tampered with. In addition, change logins, passwords and PINS for all of your accounts.
  • Immediately place a Fraud Alert on your credit reports by calling one or more of the three nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax: 1-800-525-6285, Experian: 1-888-397-3742 or TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289.
  • 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. It can take someone anywhere from a few weeks to a year or more to realize that someone stole identity. This heavily depends on how often you check your financial records.
  •  File a local police report.

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.

About Donna Reynolds