Identity theft. (Photo: RICK NEASE, GANNETT)
How to protect yourself from identity theft
Published on March 12th, 2014 | by USA Today
With tens of millions of shoppers’ identities compromised in the holiday data attack on Target, and a small attack at Neiman Marcus, protecting personal information has become a top concern for Americans. For this week’s #millennialmoney Twitter chat, Jonathan Gedeon, a certified credit counselor with ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions, answered your questions about how to monitor your financial accounts and safeguard your identity. USA TODAY’s Hadley Malcolm moderated the discussion. This is a summary of the questions and answers.
Q: Who do you contact first when you suspect that your identity has been stolen?
A: Place a fraud alert on your credit report with all three reporting agencies. Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
Q: With the recent breaches of data at Target and others, how can I protect my information?
A: Monitor your credit report at annualcreditreport.com and follow up immediately if anything seems amiss. Also, keep a close eye on your billing statement.
Q: Are there certain places where it’s considered less safe to use a debit or credit card? Any places you should only use cash?
A: Common targets (of fraud) have been gas pumps & ATMs that are not affiliated with a bank.
Q: Are younger adults more vulnerable to certain forms of ID theft? What kinds?
A: The more information you share online, through e-mail and through social media, the more exposed you may be.
Q: How often should you change passwords?
A: At least every 60 to 90 days, and never use portions of personal information when you create a password.
Q: Do you really have to have different passwords for all accounts? At a certain point, it becomes too hard to keep track of.
A: It is much safer to have multiple passwords. One password makes it much easier to access all accounts.
Q: Should I file a police report if I am a victim of identity theft?
A: Place a fraud report, close accounts and file a police report. Go to ftc.gov/idtheft to fill out an affidavit.
Q: How do I know that a website is secured when I am making a purchase online?
A: Make sure that the address starts with https://.
Q: Are you more likely to have personal information stolen if it’s already happened once?
A: Yes. Once your information is in the wrong hands it can be sold and distributed among other thieves.
Q: So what should victims do to prevent future problems?
A: You can place an extended fraud report and closely monitor all accounts. A fraud alert only lasts for 90 days. So an extended fraud alert would require you to follow up with your credit bureaus.You can also place a security freeze that keeps anyone from accessing your credit report information. A security freeze helps prevents thieves from opening new accounts in your name.
Join the next Twitter chat on March 19 at 3 p.m. ET for a discussion on why saving for retirement is important, even in your 20s. Use #millennialmoney to follow along and ask questions. You may submit questions ahead of time to Hadley Malcolm at firstname.lastname@example.org.