December is Identity Theft Awareness & Prevention Month

A hand shape created by the word "STOP" repeated in various sizes all in the color red. The word "Identity Theft" in black right in the center of the hand shape.If you do have kleptophobia, you are not alone, and if your fear involves having your identity stolen, December is the perfect month to help you deal with that. The Federal Trade Commission received nearly 1.4 million reports of identity theft in 2020, making it the most common type of complaint lodged by consumers. To bring about awareness, we offer some preventative measures that will help protect you from identity theft.

Preventative Measure 1: Check Credit Reports

Most people are rarely concerned about their credit report until they are planning to make a major purchase. Credit reports help lenders decide the risk level of approving credit or a loan and at what interest rate. But financial institutions, employers, insurers, and rental property owners aren’t the only people that should check your report. You should, too!

Review your credit report to make sure no one has opened fraudulent accounts in your name. You should check your report annually at a minimum. Did you know that you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report each year from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion)? You can order them from annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. If you find errors on your report, immediately dispute them.

Preventative Measure 2: Shop on Encrypted Secure Websites

In a 2019 American Express survey, the US merchants estimated that 27% of their annual online sales are fraudulent, an increase from 18% over 2018. The risk of identity theft is ever-present, but there are some precautions you can take that will help reduce the risk:

  • Use familiar websites. Be aware of misspellings in the URL or sites using different top-level domains. An example would be using .net instead of .com.
  • Look for the lock. Make sure you are making purchases on a site that has secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption installed. This can be determined by the added “S” to HTTP in the URL. An icon of a locked padlock will also appear, usually to the left of the URL.
  • Limit your information. Online shopping sites don’t need information like your Social Security Number or your birthdate to complete a transaction. These numbers, combined with your credit card number, could be a recipe for an identity theft disaster.

Preventative Measure 3: Avoid Credit Card Fraud

There are two types of credit card fraud:

  1. New account fraud, where an identity thief uses your information to open a credit card account in your name. New account fraud increased 48% from 2019 to 2020.
  2. Existing account fraud, where an identity thief uses a credit card that you opened. This is usually done by stealing the credit card information. Existing account fraud has only one tenth the fraud reports as new accounts.

Since new account fraud is far more prevalent than existing account fraud, it’s important to protect your personal information that can be used to open an account. This information can be found on unwanted documents, such as:

  • Bank and credit card statements
  • Tax records
  • ATM receipts
  • Canceled checks
  • Insurance and legal documents
  • Travel itineraries
  • Utility bills

Preventative Measure 4: Destroy Discarded Personal Information

Securing your personal information is vital to avoid it being seen or stolen and used for fraud by identity thieves. Any time you discard information, whether it be printed or digital, you must make sure that it is completely destroyed and becomes unreadable and impossible to put back together. Consulting a professional shredding company isn’t just a business requirement; it’s critical for individuals as well.

Richards & Richards will not only destroy your records but will ensure that they are recycled properly. We’re NAID AAA Certified, and serve Nashville businesses and residents. Connect with us at 615-242-9600 or complete the form on this page. We look forward to helping you protect your information.

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