Every two seconds, an American’s identity is stolen. It can take months to reverse the damage done to your identity and credit if your identity is stolen. In 2013 Virginia had the 16th highest Identity Theft Rate in the nation with more than 6000 people reporting their identity stolen. Buying and refinancing are hard enough without identity thieves making the process worse. Identity theft can destroy the high credit score you have worked hard to maintain and make it a hassle for you to get a mortgage on a new home. Often times identity theft is discovered when a mortgage originator pulls a credit score and it is shockingly lower than it should be. Do not become a victim—follow these tips to protect your identity.
7 ways to keep your information secure
- Guard your privacy. Never give out personal information such as your address, phone number, social security number, date of birth or birthplace on social networks. Also do not fall victim to scams that ask for personal information either over the phone or through email.
- Implement security features. If you keep financial or personal documents on your computer install a firewall and use anti-spyware and anti-virus software. It is also important to keep your browser up to date.
- Store your personal and financial information securely. Either kept in your filing cabinet or in the cloud keep your information secure.
- Use strong passwords. Choose passwords that incorporate a combination of letters numbers, capitals, and symbols to keep your password from being easily guessed or hacked.
- Shred old personal documents. Destroy receipts, insurance cards, documents, and junk mail that you do not need, particularly if it contains personal information.
- Check your mailbox. Don’t leave mail in your mailbox for a long period of time. If you are going on vacation, request a hold from the U.S. Postal Service.
- Look out for unauthorized activity. Check your bank and credit card accounts online frequently to make sure you are the only one controlling them.
What to do if your identity is stolen?
Getting your identity stolen can be a frightening experience, but if you act fast, you can limit the impact on your credit. Here’s how you can do that:
- File a report with your local police department.
- File an identity theft report using the tools the Federal Trade Commission’s website (consumer.ftc.gov) offers.
- Contact your bank, credit card companies, and loan companies to place a fraud alert on your account or close your existing accounts.
If someone steals your wallet or purse, they can easily access your address from your identification. Change the locks on your home to prevent further theft.
If your credit, ATM, or Debit Card is lost or stolen :
- Report your loss immediately to the card issuer
- Get a copy of the transaction history associated with the missing card to check for unauthorized charges
- Follow up with your card company.
Protect your smartphone:
- Add a password to protect your home screen.
- Download apps only through reputable websites.
- Do not share too much personal information on social media websites.