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Financial Literacy: Avoiding Identity Theft

Find a penny, pick it up...and put it into your retirement fund! Financial Literacy focuses on making smart financial decisions and planning for the future.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is when another person steals your identifying information and poses as you for financial gains.

"Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance. An identity thief can file a tax refund in your name and get your refund. In some extreme cases, a thief might even give your name to the police during an arrest." -Federal Trade Commission

Locked Money

Source: Pictures of Money, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Equifax and Other Breaches

One way that identities are stolen is through data breaches, like the major Equifax breach that occurred over summer 2017. Personal identifying information for many Equifax users was obtained through this hack (find out if you were impacted here) and you may want to take advantage of the free credit monitoring they are offering, whether or not Equifax says you were affected.

Data breaches happen all the time. Here's a visualization to show you. Be more wary of giving out your personal information to companies and pay attention to announcements of breaches, so that you can find out if you've been affected and set up fraud alerts or freeze your credit, just in case.

Warning Signs of Identity Theft

An excerpt from the Federal Trade Commission:

  • "You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain.
  • You don’t get your bills or other mail.
  • Merchants refuse your checks.
  • Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours.
  • You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.
  • Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.
  • Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit.
  • A health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.
  • The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
  • You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account."

If you spot one of these signs, let the appropriate companies know and report your identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission, and your local police department. Freeze your credit and close your credit accounts as soon as possible with all bureaus - Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. It's easy to freeze and unfreeze your credit, so don't hesitate! Still not sure what steps to take? This website will walk you through recovery steps based on what was lost or stolen.

Identity Theft Resources