Identity theft is a crime where a thief steals your personal information, such as your full name or social security number, to commit fraud. Approximately, 17.6 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014. Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics. The emotional and financial toll victims undergo to clean up their credit is astonishing.

There is an unfairness in the system. Once victims of identity theft prove their identity has been stolen & they get legal involved, they experience a never-ending battle to prove their innocence to companies and collection agencies that assume the victim is just trying to get out of paying.

So, prevention is key. Here are 5 tips to prevent identity theft:

1. Strengthen passwords

Use at least 8 characters, alphanumerics, symbols and upper/lower case. By having strong passwords, you are able to keep your information more secure. Make sure you use different passwords. Don’t stick with just one because if someone hacks that account, they will be able to get into all of your personal sites and information. There are several sites that can help generate strong passwords. Check out https://strongpasswordgenerator.com/.

2. Handle PII with care

  • Don’t give out Personal Identifying Information (PII) unless absolutely necessary.
  • You are not required to provide your Social Security Number. Ask why they need it, how it will be stored & when will they use it.
  • Shred documents that contain PII.
  • Collect mail promptly.

3. Read credit reports annually

Go to AnnualCreditReport.com for a free credit report annually.

4. Empty your purse/wallet

Don’t carry any more than necessary and never your Social Security card.

5. Think you might be a victim

Place a fraud alert on your credit report. See FTC site for more information.

Want to read about two victims of identity theft? Delve into their horrifying experience of identity theft and how they are cleaning up their credit. They also provide some advice from the victim’s perspective:

As a credit reporting agency, One Source has encountered applicants who are victims of identify theft. We provide the Remedying the Effects of Identity Theft document to anyone suspicious of identity theft. As a result, protecting sensitive information of our clients and applicants is a priority for One Source. For more information on identity theft & prevention, check out Identity Theft: What to Know, What to Do

Christy Gammel

Christy received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from Nebraska Wesleyan University. Her minors are Marketing and Public Relations. She started at One Source in 2014 as the Project Specialist. With a few other positions in between, she is now the Marketing Supervisor.