Wellness Wednesday: Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

By Sophy Mott posted 09-27-2017 12:00 AM

  

AAFCS thanks AAFCS member Axton Betz-Hamilton, Ph.D., AFC®, CPFFE, Assistant Professor of Consumer Affairs, South Dakota State University for submitting to this FCSfit Wellness Wednesday.

In 2016 alone, there were 15.4 million reported incidents of identity theft in the U.S., a record high (Javelin Strategy and Research, 2017).  Just this past week, the credit reporting agency Equifax reported a data breach potentially affecting 143 million U.S. consumers (O’Brien, 2017).  Personal information including Social Security Numbers and birthdates were accessed in the breach, which can be used to commit identity theft.  In light of the increased incidence of identity theft, the following are some ways to decrease your odds of becoming a victim:

  • Avoid providing personal information over the phone (e.g., Social Security Number, date of birth, credit card numbers) unless you initiated the call. If someone calls you asking for this information and says they represent a specific business or financial institution, hang up and call the business or financial institution to verify the legitimacy of the call.
  • Have a secure (locking) mailbox. Bills and financial statements received in the mail provide a wealth of personal information for identity thieves that can easily be taken from an unsecure mailbox.
  • Before inserting a debit or credit card into a card reader at a gas pump, check to see if there is evidence of tampering, such as a loose card reader, a small hole drilled near the keypad, or a loose keypad. These are signs that a skimming device may be attached to the card reader.  Skimmers capture your debit and/or credit card information for thieves.
  • Don’t leave documents with personal information on them in your vehicle. A thief can break into your vehicle, steal the documents, and use the information to steal your identity.

References

O’Brien, S. A. (2017, September 8). Giant Equifax data breach: 143 million people could be affected. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/07/technology/business/equifax-data-breach/index.html

Javelin Strategy and Research. (2017, February 1). Identity fraud hits record high with 15.4 million U.S. victims in 2016, up 16 percent according to new Javelin Strategy & Research study. Retrieved from https://www.javelinstrategy.com/press-release/identity-fraud-hits-record-high-154-million-us-victims-2016-16-percent-according-new

AAFCS thanks AAFCS member Axton Betz-Hamilton, Ph.D., AFC®, CPFFE, Assistant Professor of Consumer Affairs, South Dakota State University for submitting to this FCSfit Wellness Wednesday, the first of a two-part series on protecting your credit. In the next Wellness Wednesday (Oct. 11), we'll feature detailed information on how to freeze your credit.
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