Identity theft is a risk you face each day. No matter if you are scanning your debit card, handing over your driver's license to who you think is a customer service agent, or making a purchase online, you are putting your information on the line. Thieves steal identity information to commit some form of fraud. The government can't do all of the protecting, though. You need to do some yourself.
The Government's Job
The US federal government is taking steps to help consumers protect their identities. In 2006, the President's Task Force on Identity Theft was created. This organization is tasked with the job of improving law enforcement abilities, improving consumer education, and setting governmental safeguards to protect against identity theft.
Additionally, the Fair Credit Reporting Act provides consumers with access to information contained on credit reports, which were once off-limits to the average consumer. This law also puts requirements in place for accuracy in reporting, such as the ability for a consumer to report inaccuracies and potential identity theft to the credit bureaus. While this is a good start, it is ultimately up to the consumer to take actions to prevent the loss of personal identity.
Simple, At-Home Changes
A good place for the consumer to start is with the way they protect, store, and use personal information. This includes Social Security numbers, PINs, and driver's license numbers. Taking steps like collecting the mail on a timely basis and not carrying a Social Security card in a wallet can help. Additionally, shred documents as soon as they are no longer needed. Avoid responding to unsolicited requests for information.
Monitor billing cycles. Report any discrepancies right away to the lender. Additionally, individuals can make simple changes such as storing personal information in a safe location and keeping receipts of purchases to verify the charges on your bills. These steps can make a significant difference in protecting identity.
Risks are still present, though, even after these initial methods are taken. There are additional steps that most individuals should consider, including learning about Lifelock.com. This type of tool works to protect your identity so that no one can access it without your permission to do so. For example, if someone were to try and open an account in your name, this tool stops them from doing so without first getting your permission over the phone or in person.
By taking this additional step, consumers can ensure that the only accounts and changes made to their credit file are those they know about long before they occur. It does not just provide a notation on your credit account, but ensures that no one has access to your information. Additionally, this service provides you with insurance protection, such as $1 million in funds to offset the costs of repairing your identity should you become a victim of it. In many ways, this product prevents things like mail identity theft and even helps you to retrieve the contents of your wallet if it's stolen.
The bottom line here is that your identity is on the line. To protect it, you can't rely solely on government programs. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to safeguard your finances.