I have received many emails regarding identity theft, particularly during this time of the year.
I have turned to our FBI partners for information. Special Agent Darin M. Didier, a six-year veteran of the FBI who investigates identity theft for the FBI’s Miami Division, wrote this column.
Have you ever found unauthorized purchases on your credit card or tried to file a tax return only to find out someone else already filed a return in your name?
If you answered yes, you’re not alone – thousands of South Floridians have become victims of identity theft in recent years by these and other common schemes. Approximately 10 million Americans fall victim to identity theft each year at a cost of roughly $5 billion. The FBI, along with numerous other agencies, investigates many different types of identity theft scams that victimize individuals every day.
Simply put, identity theft is the use of someone’s personal information without their permission. Identity theft can be used to obtain new lines of credit, exploit existing credit cards or bank accounts, obtain a mortgage, file a fraudulent tax return or even to get a job.
What used to be a crime committed by criminals grabbing credit card offers from mailboxes has become a global issue that can be perpetrated by individuals thousands of miles away. With advanced technology, criminals exploit the internet as a means to quickly and anonymously find unsecure personal information. While a daunting problem, proper vigilance can help to safeguard your identity. You can help keep your identity safe by following these tips:
Check your credit report for free at least yearly – then follow-up with the credit bureau if you notice anything unusual.
Contact your credit card companies to close out your accounts that you no longer use – just because you paid off the balance does not mean the account was closed.
Regularly review your bank account and credit card statements to ensure no suspicious charges appear.
Never respond to unsolicited text messages, e-mails or phone calls asking for your personal information. If you have any doubt, use the contact number on your account statement to check on your account.
Ensure the websites you use have a secure connection, which is denoted by “https:” at the beginning of the web address and a lock icon displayed in the address bar.
Set up automatic updates for your antivirus and firewall protection.
Use a shredder to destroy all documentation you wouldn’t want others to see.
For more tips to combat identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission website at www.ftc.gov. Report all online crime including identity theft at www.ic3.gov. The FBI and its local, state and federal partners take the investigation and prosecution of identity theft seriously. Contact your local FBI offices at (305)944-9101 if you are a victim.
You can also call our office and we will be happy to send you brochures on this topic. We have English and Spanish brochures.