financial corner: ENACTUS -Securing your identity

U-News Staff

On the Federal Trade Commission’s list of top consumer complaints, identity theft has ranked No. 1 each year since 2000. Of the 1.8 million complaints filed with the FTC in 2011, 15 percent dealt with identity theft. Of those, 25 percent dealt with tax or wage related fraud.

Thieves can obtain personal information in many ways. Stealing purses and going through trash may be the most common, but a more high-tech method of identity theft is on the rise—”phishing,” the use of a fake website to obtain confidential consumer information, is on the rise.

Police Officer Robert Van Cleave, who is also a financial advisor with Transamerica Financial Advisors, Inc., has tips to prevent, monitor and report identity theft:

•  When entering sensitive information on a website, make sure the website is secure.   To verify security, make sure “http” or “https” appears in the URL. Look for an icon on the web browser that indicates the site is secure.

•  Do not enter sensitive information on a website if you are using a public computer such as those in a computer lab or any unsecured wireless network.

•  Sign the back of your debit and credit cards, and, using a permanent marker, write “Ask for ID” on the front of the card.

It is important for a person who becomes a victim to detect the crime as early as possible:

•  Review credit reports regularly and look for unauthorized accounts.  U.S. residents are  entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once per year.  You can order them online at www.annualcreditreport.com.

•  Review bank account and credit account statements as soon as they are received.  Specifically, look for unauthorized transactions.

•  Open and read all junk mail.  Make sure they are not collection notices or notices of new accounts opened by someone else.

When one discovers that he or she is a victim of a financial crime, that person should:

•  Place a fraud alert on their credit report.  This is done by contacting one of the credit reporting companies.  Contact information can be found at www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

•  File an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission either online at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-438-4338.  An FTC Affidavit will be created.

•  File a police report where the crime occurred.  If the location of the crime is too far to travel to, then file a report with your local police department.  Provide them with the FTC Affidavit.

More information on identity theft can be found at http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft.

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