Scammers: Protecting Your Identity in a High-Tech World

In a world where we are constantly “plugged-in”, the likelihood of our personal information being compromised is higher than it has ever been before. Scammers can use your Social Security Number(SSN), birth date, address, driver’s license number, bank account numbers, and credit card numbers to steal your identity. Often, scammers can get other information about us with only one or two pieces of information.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft. Knowing what scammers are looking for, how they get our personal information, and what we can do to protect ourselves will help reduce our vulnerability to scammers. Follow these tips from DIFS to help protect your identity.

What to Do

  • Do not carry your social security card in your purse, wallet, car, etc.
  • Keep all paper documents locked.
  • Always be careful what you share online or over the phone.
  • Practice cyber security by using strong passwords. 
  • Never share your SSN unless you verify the source first.
  • Be careful what you share on social media platforms. 
  • Safely dispose of personal information by shredding confidential documents before putting them in the trash. Dumpster diving is still one of the most popular ways for scammers to get your identity.
  • Request your free credit report once a year to monitor your credit activity to ensure you have not been a victim of fraud. 

Online Safety

It is important to also practice cyber safety on our devices and mobile phones as this is most often the way a scammer can steal an identity. Some DIFS best practices for online safety are listed below:  

  • Keep documents stored online secure.
  • Increase the security configuration of your smartphone and device.
  • Run firewall and anti-malware software regularly.
  • Use caution when opening emails from on unknown sender. Do not click on links or attachments without verifying the source.
  • Only download files from trusted websites as malware can steal information, account credentials, and cause your device to crash.
  • Use strong passwords for your accounts and cellular phone to prevent others from accessing your data.

Where to Turn

If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, there is help for you. Follow these steps to protect yourself from any further harm:

  • Contact one of the credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian, Equifax) and ask them to put a fraud alert on your credit file. Make sure to confirm that the agency you called will contact the other two agencies as well.
  • Close any accounts that you believe have been compromised.
  • As a precaution, change your passwords on any other accounts to make sure the scammer cannot access those too.
  • Contact the Michigan Attorney General’s Office to file a complaint.
  • Report identity theft with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • File a police report. When you attach the ID Theft Affidavit to the police report, this becomes an Identity Theft report. This is necessary for providing persuasive evidence of theft when disputing debts.

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