You’re So Awesome, Criminals Want to Be You
Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. It’s is a serious crime and can mess with your finances, credit history, and reputation. Idaho’s identity theft statute states that if the value of goods taken by identity fraud exceeds $300, the theft is a felony punishable by up to five years in jail, a fine of up to $50,000, or both.
Protecting Your Identity
There are steps you can take to protect your personal information.
- Check your credit reports. You have the right to a free credit report every year.
- Read all of your account statements (banks, credit cards, medical bills, etc.) and immediately contact the business if you find a mistake.
- Shred all documents that show personal, financial, and medical information before you throw them away.
- Don’t respond to email, text, or phone messages that ask for personal information. Legitimate companies don’t ask for information this way.
- Create strong passwords that mix letters, numbers, and special characters and don’t use the same password for more than one account.
- If you shop or bank online, use websites that encrypt your financial information.
- If you use a wireless network or a Bluetooth enabled device, you can be tracked in public so limit your use of these devices and don’t send information to any website that isn’t fully encrypted.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software and a firewall on your computer and other devices.
- Set your computer’s operating system, web browser, and security system to update automatically.
- In Idaho, you have the right to ask your bank and other companies you do business with to not share your personal financial information with other companies. You need to put your opt out information in writing.
- You can also opt out of prescreened credit card offers. They make a tempting target for identity thieves who steal your mail.
These are some signs that your identity may have been compromised:
- Your wallet, purse, backpack, or smartphone, tablet, or computer has been lost or stolen.
- You receive a data breach notice from your bank, credit card company, or retailer you do business with.
- You see mistakes on your bank, credit card, or other statements.
- Businesses unexpectedly turn down your checks, credit cards, or loan requests.
- You receive bills that don’t belong to you or you don’t receive your regular bills on time.
- You are contacted by debt collectors about debts that don’t belong to you.
- There are mistakes on the explanation of medical benefits from your health plan.
- You receive a notice from the IRS that someone used your Social Security number.
- You see unwarranted collection notices on your credit report.
If You Are a Victim of Identity Theft
The Federal Trade Commission has detailed information what to do if you discover someone is using your personal information to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund. Here are the first four steps you need to take.
- Contact the companies where you think the fraud has occurred or may occur and ask them to freeze your account and change your login information.
- Contact the three credit bureaus to get a copy of your credit report and request a fraud alert be placed on your reports.
- Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission to create an Identity Theft Affidavit that provides the information law enforcement, businesses, and creditors need to assist you in correcting the damage done by the identity thief.
- File a report with your local police department.