What Everyone Should Know About Identity Theft, Part 1

Aug 23, 2013

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Jeri Marks was surprised when she received a letter from the IRS claiming her 12-year-old son’s taxes had been reported. Her son, Gabriel, had done a small modeling job requiring Jeri to file his taxes. Jeri found it strange the IRS would claim that her son had already filed his taxes, but she decided that since he was a minor, it was likely a small error on the IRS’s part.

The next year, Jeri received the same letter and decided to investigate. She learned that Gabriel, at age 12, was a victim of identity theft.

Thousands of dollars in collections, multiple credit accounts, excessive inquiries, and addresses for multiple residences crowded Gabriel's credit report.  Gabriel now had a trashed credit history that would haunt him for years to come.

At age 24, Gabriel continues to struggle with the breach of his identity. He has tried to buy a car since he was 19, but no one will approve him for a loan. And applying for a home mortgage in the future will be nothing more than a nightmare.

Gabriel still receives threats from the IRS for back taxes; he receives bills for penalties and interest he’s never accrued, letters claiming he owes thousands of dollars to people he’s never met, multiple cell phone bills monthly; once, Gabriel had his electricity cut off because the electric company reported him as having two extra overdue accounts and wouldn’t return his power until it was paid in full.

How do I prevent my identity from being stolen?

In 2012, over 12.6 million people reported their identities stolen, and that number rises every year.  However, with a little knowledge in prevention, you can easily keep your identity safe. 

The FDIC provides 6 basic strategies for identity theft prevention. 

  • Protect your Social Security number (SSN).  Don't divulge it and if you asked, be sure to ask why your social security number is needed. If you don’t feel comfortable with the response in any way, do not provide your SSN.
  • Protect your incoming and outgoing mail. Never include personal information or passwords in your out-going emails.
  • Keep your financial trash "clean." Be sure that all your trash is actual trash and not financial or personal information
  • Keep a close watch on your bank account statements and credit card bills. Never wait if you see any strange activity with your finances. Always act immediately!
  • Avoid identity theft on the Internet. The Internet is an identity thief’s playground. Online traps such as phishing websites do well in tricking people to hand over their personal information. If these websites can trick adults, just think about what they could do with a child. 1 in 10 children are targeted for identity theft, and once targeted, they are 51 times more likely to give out personal information than an adult. Though your child may not know his or her social security number, children are more prone to surf websites that contain malware and spyware that can easily access your computer and transfer confidential information to anyone in the world.
  • Exercise your rights under FACTA to review credit records and report fraudulent activity. Don’t access your credit report excessively, but be sure to make some kind of regular check up for fraudulent activity.

For more information on identity theft please visit the following websites.

I work for Net Nanny and all my opinions are my own.