A 2017 study estimated that identity thieves stole $16 billion dollars in 2016. Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment with your health insurance. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to safeguard your personal information and prevent identity theft:
- Shred documents with medical or financial information rather than just throwing them in the trash.
- Review your account statements regularly. Look for any suspicious charges and report them.
- Use strong passwords and change them regularly.
- Avoid accessing online banking and e-commerce websites when using public Wi-Fi.
- Beware of phishing scams and don’t provide personal information to individuals who contact you via phone or email.
If you are concerned about someone opening new accounts without your permission, you might consider using a credit freeze. Military service members who are deploying can also place an active duty alert on their credit reports to help minimize the risk of identity theft.
Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a great place to start your search for identity theft information or assistance with financial topics. To learn more about what steps to take if your identity if compromised, visit https://www.identitytheft.gov/.