With all the technology available to us now, identity theft has been on the rise. Americans are becoming increasingly aware of the risk of scams, fraud, and identity theft that could occur during this time. Scammers have unleashed new ways of stealing the identities of the people who most need help.

How identity theft can affect you

Once a thief has your information, they can access your financial accounts, steal your money, and do several other things with it, including:

  • Open fraudulent credit cards.
  • File false health insurance claims.
  • Use your existing bank or credit card accounts to make unauthorized purchases.
  • Sell your information to other scammers.
  • File a fraudulent tax return or steal your tax refund.

Tips to prevent identity theft

Keep these tips in mind to protect yourself from identity theft:

  • Secure your Social Security number (SSN). Don’t share your SSN on any digital platform such as emails or WhatsApp messages. Hackers can get access to it from the data stored on these digital platforms.
  • Don’t share personal information (birthdate, Social Security number, or bank account number) because someone asks for it either via mail or on a phone call.
  • Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
  • Use the security features on your mobile phone.
  • Update sharing and firewall settings when you’re on a public wi-fi network. Use a virtual private network (VPN), if you use public wi-fi.
  • Review your credit card and bank account statements. Compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
  • Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards. This can prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
  • Store personal information in a safe place.
  • Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
  • Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases.

How to report identity theft

If you believe that your identity is compromised you should report identity (ID) theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at IdentityTheft.gov or by phone at 1-877-438-4338.