Don’t Accidentally “Gift” Someone Your Identity

~ By Gerald Rome, Colorado Securities Commissioner ~

The holidays are always a busy time, and can include lots of trips to the mall and online shopping. Often, people don’t take the necessary time to protect their identity and information when they’re preparing for gatherings of family and friends. That’s not good considering it is estimated that an ID theft or fraud occurs once every 2 seconds in the U.S. Now that life is slowing down, it’s a good time to ensure that your information and identity still belong safely to you, and that they stay that way.

How to verify that your identity and information are safe:

  • Thoroughly review all bank and credit card statements to ensure that there are no “mystery” purchases. If you see something suspicious, call your bank or credit card company right away.
  • Take advantage of free, annual credit reports from the three major agencies: Experian, Transunion, and Equifax.
Gerald Rome, Colorado Securities Commissioner

Gerald Rome, Securities Commissioner

Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report. Once this is done, a reporting agency will not be able to release credit information without your authorization. It is free to place the freeze, though sometimes a charge of $10-$12 accompanies a request to lift the hold.

What to do if you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft:

  • Immediately contact banks and credit card companies to place holds or close potentially compromised accounts.
  • Call the three credit reporting bureaus to notify them. Request a copy of your credit report, and then ask to place a fraud alert on your report as well.
  • Pay extra close attention to mail and email in case the thief attempts to use your information to open new lines of credit or overdraws an account. Consider notifying the post office of your situation.
  • Create an “ID Theft” folder to store all relevant documents and all correspondence. Once you’ve collected enough evidence, file reports with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and local law enforcement.
    How to protect your identity and information every day:
  • Be prepared. Keep copies of all your important financial documents in a secure file somewhere in your home. That way, if someone steals your identity you have quick and easy access to all the information you need to compile a report.
  • Be alert. Only carry credit cards and ID that are absolutely necessary in your wallet or purse. Never give out personal or financial information on a phone call you didn’t initiate, and be wary of emails and calls claiming that something is wrong with one of your financial accounts.
  • Protect your data. Use encryption software online whenever possible, and use strong passwords to protect computers, credit, bank, and other accounts.
  • Safeguard your paperwork. Be careful that both ingoing and outgoing mail doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. Shred all documents containing personal or financial information prior to disposal.
  • Watch your Wi-Fi. If you are on a public or unsecured Wi-Fi network, never enter passwords or access financial accounts.

Be safe rather than sorry. Even though canceling and re-ordering credit cards and checks is a pain, it’s better to go through the hassle if you suspect your information has been compromised, than to deal with an identity theft or fraud incident. And report! If you believe you have been the target or victim of identity theft or fraud, contact law enforcement. If you need assistance you can call the DORA Senior Hotline at (720) 593-6720.