Technology has given us a world of commerce and communication. Unfortunately, it’s also given us identity theft. 16.6 million cases were reported in 2012 by consumers ages 16 and up, roughly 7 percent of the group’s population.
I’ve experienced my fair share of identity theft, but a thief called the wrong girl this week when they dialed my number. After answering I was met with an automated voice that stated the following:
“Hello, this is Chase Bank. We regret to inform you that your Visa MasterCard has been locked. Press 1 to reactivate it.” Sensing a scam, I pressed 1 out of morbid curiosity. “Please enter your 9-digit Social Security Number.”
This is where I ended the call.
Identity theft is a common practice via phone and Internet scams. Also known as “phishing,” identity thieves prey on the naivety of consumers who assume they are speaking with a legitimate business. While you may be smarter than a scammer, there are still a few things to do after an attempted identity theft:
- Contact your lenders. While the phisher may not have your account information, it’s wise to take precautions. Contact your banks and creditors and ask them to place an alert in your file. Heightening security is the first step on the path to identity theft protection. Don’t wait to take action.
- Report the source to the FTC. Identity theft is a crime, one that is more easily prosecuted with witness statements. Do your part by filing a report with local police and submitting an identity theft report to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Creating a record will help protect you in the future and provide the authorities with the information they need.
- Block communication. Prevent future harassment by blocking the thief’s phone number or email address. Limiting lines of communication creates an added level of security.
- Spread the word. Identity theft cost Americans $24.7 billion in 2012. Help your fellow consumer by posting warnings through social media and online forums. In my case, 800Notes.com provided a list of comments from consumers who received calls from the same phishing phone number. Join the conversation by submitting your story and helping others avoid scams.
The bottom line: Identity thieves are smart, but you’re smarter. Continue to utilize best practices in your daily life and use your brain when faced with a suspicious encounter. When in doubt, take a step back and focus on safety.