An estimated 15.4 million people in the United States were affected by some form of identity theft this past year according to a 2017 Identity Fraud Study. You can protect yourself from identity theft by taking steps to guard your personal information, learn the warning signs of identity theft, and understand what you can do if it happens to you.

It is important to keep your personal information, both physical and electronic, secure. Always keep your purse or wallet close to you, and never leave it in plain sight in your car or grocery cart. Buy a shredder, and regularly shred anything that may have your personal information on it, such as bills, tax returns, and bank statements. Never open spam emails, and keep your electronic security up to date. It can be difficult to remember passwords for all of your accounts, but avoid using the same password for each website you access. Change your logins and passwords frequently, and never save your password on the site. Newer payment methods, such as Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and credit cards with security chips are designed to keep your information more secure. If you purchase something online, avoid using a debit card. Credit cards offer more protection under the Fair Credit Billing Act in the event of fraudulent charges.

If you think that your identity has been stolen, immediately file a report with local police and the affected financial service company, such as your bank or credit card company. Close the affected account and place a freeze on your credit report. Review all of your checking, savings, credit, and debit statements, and take note of any statements that you don’t recognize. Remember – you are not alone! This situation may be stressful, but it affects many people each year. Check out our tips below for some red flags to be on the look out for to prevent identity theft.

Identity Theft Red Flags

  • Unfamiliar Charges on your Account – Regularly check your checking account for unfamiliar charges. Report any charges that you do not recognize.
  • Your Credit Report – Check your credit report every year. Be sure to report any accounts that are not yours.
  • Increase in junk email – Be on the lookout for phishing emails.
  • Missing Mail – If you receive your bills by mail, take notice when they do not show up.

Sources: Insurance Information Institute, Javelin Strategy & Research, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Federal Trade Commission. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.