Every year, National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) encourages people and businesses to learn more about avoiding scams and understanding consumer rights. This year, NCPW takes place March 1-7, 2015. NCPW highlights free resources from government agencies and consumer organizations to help people make smarter buying decisions and spot rip-offs. Visit www.ncpw.gov to find out about consumer education materials available from NCPW partners, and order free FTC materials.
Tri-Town Apple Is On Board
We’re getting with the program and will publish four articles under the banner of consumer protection, beginning last week with an introduction to NCPW. This article focuses on perhaps the most important topic, Identity Theft.
It Can Happen
If you think it can’t happen to you, think again. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, there were 12 million cases of identity theft in the U.S. during 2012. If you do the math, that’s one every 3 seconds!
“Consumers and institutions are now starting to act as partners—detecting and stopping fraud faster than ever before. But fraudsters are acting quicker than ever before and victimizing more consumers. Consumers must take data breach notifications more seriously and maintain vigilance to safeguard personal information, especially Social Security numbers.” Jim Van Dyke, CEO of Javelin Strategy & Research
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) views Identity Theft as a serious threat:
Identity theft happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission. It is a serious crime that can wreak havoc with your finances, credit history, and reputation – and it can take time, money, and patience to resolve. – FTC Taking Charge
This can happen to you!
Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance. An identity thief might even file a tax return in your name and get your refund. In some extreme cases, a thief might even give your name to the police during an arrest. – FTC
So what should we do to protect ourselves?
The FTC provides a thorough list of steps that everyone should be aware of:
- First of all there are a number of precautions that we all can follow to lower the risk of having our identity stolen.
- Secondly, monitor key information:
- Review Your Credit Reports – You have the right to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the 3 nationwide credit reporting companies.
- Read Your Account and Billing Statements.
- Review Your Explanation of Medical Benefits.
- Respond Quickly to Notices from the Internal Revenue Service.
- If it happens, you want to minimize the impact and rectify the damage as quickly as possible. The FTC has published a very complete booklet, “What to Do If Your Identity Is Stolen“. In it are critical first steps you should take:
- Place an Initial Fraud Alert
- Order Your Credit Reports
- Create an Identity Theft Report
- Beyond these very important first steps are many other actions you may want to take, for example filing a FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. There are sample forms and letters to help you communicate with the many financial institutions and agencies if your wallet or other information
Obtain a Copy
It would not be a bad idea to have a copy of this document in your possession. They are available from FTC, free. Or the Tri-Town Teachers Credit Union has a supply. Stop by and pick up a copy.
Tri-Town Teachers Federal Credit Union
61 Jesup Road
Westport, CT 06880
In a nutshell, Identity Theft is very real. It is very serious. It very well can happen to you, especially if you are not taking all precautions. But even if you do take the best precautions, it may still happen to you. So be prepared, obtain a copy of the FTC booklet “What To Do I Your Identity Is Stolen“.
Being prepared will cost you nothing. Being ill-prepared could cost you really serious time, money and worry.
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