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Manage your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.
  Take steps to protect yourself

By Brandon Fox

According to the United States Postal Inspection Service, identity theft is the fastest growing crime is the United States. As fraudsters become more sophisticated, the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft continues to rise at alarming rates. Although there is no foolproof way of eliminating all risk of becoming a victim, the key is to take steps to minimize your exposure.

Most of us know that it is good idea to shred credit card statements, pre-approved offers for credit, and other documents containing our personal information. We may know that our trash can be another man's treasure, and fraudsters can obtain our personal information by dumpster diving. Although we can control how we secure our personal information, we have no control over the safeguards in place at retailers, financial institutions, and other businesses that are in possession of our personal information.Identity theft

We have all read the frightening headlines of significant data breaches at major retailers such as Target, Neiman Marcus and TJ Maxx. Fraudsters have become very sophisticated and are often organized in their efforts to commit crime. Organized crime syndicates dedicate significant resources to perpetrating the crime of identity theft. Sophisticated hackers have found ways to penetrate security systems at places where we feel safe sharing personal information. They are in search of our names, addresses, Social Security numbers, account numbers, PIN numbers, and other personal information. They continue to strike at rich and obtain valuable information on millions of consumers, and will cash in at the expense of innocent victims.

There are many things that fraudsters can do with our personal information. In fact, they can do almost anything that we can do. They can open credit cards in our names, obtain loans from financial institutions, or open a line of credit at a retailer. They can purchase a new vehicle or also file a false tax return using our information and receive our refund. They go on a shopping spree, leaving us with the debt and the lengthy battle of attempting to restore our credit.

Through no fault of our own, our risk of becoming a victim of identity theft is at an all-time high. We can sit on the sidelines and think that nothing will happen to us or hope and pray that we will not become victims, but we need to be diligent and take additional steps to help protect ourselves. For years, we have assumed that our valuable, personal information is safe in the hands of large financial institutions, retailers and other businesses, but we continue to learn that trusting others to safeguard our personal information puts us in a vulnerable position.

At McGovern & Greene, we have a thorough understanding of what you can do to prevent becoming a victim of identity theft. We work closely with you to develop a strategy based specifically upon your current needs. We can educate you on various risk management topics and help you incorporate these items into your daily life. In addition, we know which steps to take if you have already been victimized and we'll help you navigate the stressful, time-consuming process of restoring your credit.

There are many proactive measures that you can take to help protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft. The following are some steps that you should consider:

• Monitor your credit reports on a regular basis.

• Consider placing a security freeze on your credit reports.

• Lock your financial and other sensitive documents in a secure location.

• Shred documents that contain your social security number, account numbers or other personal information, including bank statements, pre-approved offers for credit, checks, credit card statements and insurance forms.

• Only carry the information that you need. Don't carry your passport, social security card, birth certificate or other important documents unless there is an immediate need to have them.

• Never share personal information over the phone or internet unless you initiate the call or transaction.

• Protect your computer by installing anti-virus software and a firewall.

• Contact McGovern & Greene to schedule a consultation to discuss these steps and complete a complete risk assessment.

Once you have become a victim of identity theft, it can be difficult to restore your credit and identity. The following is a list of things that you will need to do:

• Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.

• Obtain copies of your credit report from the nation's 3 main credit reporting agencies.

• Review all credit reports for suspicious inquiries, newly opened accounts, and other information that appears fraudulent.

• Prepare an FTC Identity Theft Affidavit.

• File a police report, providing a copy of the Identity Theft Affidavit.

• Report fraudulent accounts to the creditor and work with the credit reporting agencies' Fraud Victim Assistance Departments to dispute the account and resolve the issue.

• Contact McGovern & Greene to schedule a consultation to discuss your situation and develop a thorough plan to restore your identity.

For further information regarding fraud risk assessment, please contact: craig.greene@mcgoverngreene.com

 

This publication is distributed with the understanding that the author, publisher and distributor are not rendering legal, accounting or other professional advice or opinions on specific facts or matters, and, accordingly, assume no liability whatsoever in connection with its use.

© 2014 McGovern & Greene LLP

 

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