Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. It is a serious crime that can disrupt your finances, credit history, and reputation. A thief may steal and use your information to get a job, government benefits, medical care, set up utilities, obtain credit cards or loans, etc. Youth in foster care are very vulnerable to identity theft because your personal information is shared by so many people.
Identity theft is a serious threat to your financial security and, by some reports, is the fastest growing crime. With the increase in the use of smart phones to convey personally identifiable information, the risk is much greater. Historically, Colorado has ranked fairly high in the rates of identity theft, so the risk of having your personal information stolen is a real threat. There were 17.6 million reports of fraud and identity theft in 2014, with the highest percentage of incidents affecting those ages 20-29, according to a Federal Trade Commission Report.
If someone steals your identity it can be very difficult, and time consuming, to clear your record. One way to monitor for identity theft is to regularly check your credit report. There are three credit reporting agencies, and you are allowed a free report from each one, once every 12 months. So, if you are an organized person, you could get a free report every four months if you staggered your requests. A trusted site that provides you with this information is AnnualCreditReport.com. There are many “fake” websites out there so we'd recommend sticking with this one.
Whenever you are connected to the internet, you risk being exposed to attempts to collect information, including your personally identifiable information, which could be used to steal your identity. There are steps you can take to reduce this risk, including security features such as antivirus software and firewalls. This is a very important topic, but too large to cover in detail here. Check out OnGuardOnline.gov for more information.
You can find many free antivirus programs that are “hands-off” once you install them. They do vary a lot in their features and effectiveness. Consider reviewing a few before you install them. They are available for PCs and smart phones. Many newer phones come with antivirus software installed, but you want to make sure it is up-to-date and actively scanning your phone. Here are some resources to consider going to for more information:
Even though identity theft occurs in up to 7% of households, there are steps you can take to help prevent identity theft, and to address issues if you find that your identity has been compromised. There are a number of different sources of information on the web. Here are some resources you might consider engaging for more information:
- Identity theft facts and resources (TransUnion)
- How to report and recover from identity theft (IdentityTheft.gov)
- How to spot identity theft (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)
- How to protect yourself online (FTC OnGuardOnline)
- Protecting your identity online (eBizWebpages.com)