Protect Yourself and Family
Identity theft occurs when an individual’s personal information such as their name, Social Security number or credit card number is used without their consent to commit fraud and other crimes. Many victims of identity theft are unaware that their information has been compromised until they are denied credit or sent a bill for purchases they did not make. In 2011, identity theft complaints topped the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)’s list of consumer complaints for the 12th year in a row. The FTC’s “Consumer Sentinel Network” reported that out of the 1.8 million complaints received in 2011, 15 percent were complaints regarding fraudulent use of people’s personal information. Identity theft continues to be of great concern, especially in the state of Florida, identified by the FTC as the state with the highest per capita rate of reported identity theft complaints.
Reduce Your Risk of Becoming a Victim
- Prevent identity theft by safeguarding your information. Shred financial documents and paperwork, protect your Social Security number, never click on links sent in unsolicited emails and keep your personal information in a safe place.
- Watch for suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial account and billing statements for any questionable transactions. In addition, order one free annual credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion).
- Respond against identity theft as soon as a problem is suspected. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion), close any accounts that have been compromised or opened fraudulently, file a police report and file a complaint with the FTC.
Child Identity Theft
Identity theft is a crime that does not discriminate based on age. Criminals are increasingly targeting the Social Security numbers of minors. There are several reasons why minors are a prime target for unscrupulous criminals:
- A child’s identity is a blank slate and the likelihood of being discovered is low since the child will not be using his Social Security number for a long period of time. Additionally, parents typically don’t monitor the identities of their children.
- Employers and organizations lack the ability to verify the name and birth date that is officially attached to a specific Social Security number. If that Social Security number has a clean history, a thief can add any name and date of birth to it.
The potential impact on the child’s future is significant, affecting their ability to gain approval on student loans, obtain employment or secure a place to live. It is important to educate your child about identity theft and the dangers of sharing personal data online. Keep your child’s sensitive documents safe and teach them the importance of keeping their Social Security card and other personal information in a secure place when they go off to college.
For additional information, contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at www.800helpfla.com or by calling 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) within Florida, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) en Español or (850) 410-3800 from outside of Florida.