Tuesday, 27 August 2019
It sounds like a nightmare, doesn't it? You imagine someone taking over your life, leaving you helpless, powerless and deeply in debt. What's the reality? And how should you prepare for it?
According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft has been top concern among consumers every year for the last 15 years.
Still, more money is lost through identity theft annually than from burglaries. So, just as you'd take steps to discourage anyone from breaking into your house, learn what precautions you can take to make sure they don't break into your private information.
Identity theft is a broad term for describing a variety of ways that criminals can tap into your personal information and profit from it.
By far the most common type of identity theft is stealing credit card information, where thieves use that information to get some quick cash or merchandise. While such theft can be an inconvenience, consumers who stay on top of their credit card charges can quickly inform their bank about fraudulent charges. The credit card company will usually stop payments—if notified prior to payment—and issue the consumer a new credit card.
Typically, that puts an end to the problem. Under federal law, a cardholder's liability for unauthorized use of their credit card tops out at $50. Some state laws even prohibit the $50 on unauthorized use. But beware that a card issuer may find that the charge was authorized, if there is not enough evidence to the contrary.
Another type of identity theft is new account fraud, meaning a thief gets enough information to set up a bank or credit card account in the victim's name. This potentially can be more costly and harder to detect, but it's also harder for the thief. While this type of theft is increasing, it's still relatively infrequent. One variation is called account takeover fraud, where the thief claims to own an existing account.
Identity thieves don't need a lot of information—your name, age, address, and Social Security number usually will do—and it's your job to keep anyone from getting access to that information. Here are some things you can get into the habit of doing to help avoid/prevent identity theft:
If an identity thief has tapped into your private information, he can leave a trail of his actions pretty quickly. Here are some steps you can take to get on top of it:
If you've discovered someone has tinkered with your identity, you'll want to notify those credit bureaus as well as several other organizations. The Federal Trade Commission has a comprehensive website that can help lead you through the process.
Identity theft protection products and services can help you monitor your accounts. These can be valuable and convenient tools to keep track of your financial accounts, credit reports, and personal information. But before you pay for any identity theft protection product or service (some of which have subscriptions that cost hundreds of dollars annually), you should do your research and evaluate its track record.
The content provided is for informational purposes only. Neither BBVA USA, nor any of its affiliates, is providing legal, tax, or investment advice. You should consult your legal, tax, or financial advisor about your personal situation. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BBVA USA or any of its affiliates.
Links to third party sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement. BBVA USA does not provide, is not responsible for, and does not guarantee the products, services or overall content available at third party sites. These sites may not have the same privacy, security or accessibility standards.
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