How to Avoid Identity Theft

Did you know that more than 33 percent of U.S. adults have experienced identity theft? More than one in four older adults, aged 55+, have experienced identity theft.  

Identity theft is real and is out there. Many who experience it are ashamed to admit it or don’t know who to report it to. We are here to tell you it is not your fault! The various schemes out there are meant to deceive you and your aging loved one. The most common schemes aging adults are susceptible to are: 

  • Medical identity theft 
  • Estate identity theft 
  • Tax fraud 
  • Phone scams 
  • Military identity theft 
  • Wire transfer fraud 
  • Familiar fraud 

Before we go further, let’s establish what identity theft is: Identity (ID) theft happens when someone steals your personal information to commit fraud. 

Top Tips to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Keep these tips in mind to protect yourself from identity theft as recommended by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC):  

  • Secure your Social Security number (SSN). Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Only give out your SSN when necessary. 
  • Don't share personal information (birthdate, Social Security number, or bank account number) because someone asks for it. 
  • Collect mail every day. Place a hold on your mail when you are away from home for several days. 
  • Pay attention to your billing cycles . If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender. 
  • Use the security features  on your mobile phone. 
  • Update sharing and firewall settings when you're on a public wi-fi network. Use a virtual private network (VPN), if you use public wi-fi. 
  • Review your credit card and bank account statements. Compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions. 
  • Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards. This can prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information. 
  • Store personal information in a safe place. 
  • Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer. 
  • Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases 
  • Review your credit reports  once a year. Be certain that they don't include accounts that you have not opened. You can order it for free from Annualcreditreport.com. 
  • Freeze your credit files with Equifax, Experian, Innovis, TransUnion, and the National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange for free. Credit freezes prevent someone from applying for and getting approval for a credit account or utility services in your name.  

Choosing the Best Identity Theft Protection 

The best and easiest way to protect yourself, prevent identity theft and avoid the pain of having to recover your identity is to purchase identity theft protection. There are several companies available including: 

  • Identity Guard 
  • Identity Force 
  • LifeLock 
  • Experian IdentityWorks 

Identity Guard offers the most powerful, comprehensive identity theft protection. You can choose a plan that meets your needs and at a cost that works for you: 

Plan Name  Individual (monthly)  Family (monthly) 
Value Plan (Basic Identity Protection)  $7.50  $12.50 
Total Plan (Standard Identity and Credit Protection)  $16.67  $25.00 
Ultra Plan (Premium Identity and Credit Protection)  $25.00  $33.33 

According to a Forbes review of Identity Guard, if you decide to sign up for Identity Guard, here are the main perks you can look forward to: 

Insurance against covered financial losses resulting from identity theft. All plans come with $1 million in identity theft protection, which is an important consideration since a growing number of people are personally paying out of pocket for fraud.  

Financial accounts monitoring and notification of any changes. Identity Guard will take the task of overseeing your financial accounts off your plate. You can pay for the amount of monitoring you need, and you can spend your time doing something else. 

Monitoring your credit reports and your score. Some Identity Guard plans include monitoring for all three credit bureaus, which can alert you to some of the first signs of fraud. 

Where to Report Identity Theft

Report identity (ID) theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at IdentityTheft.gov or by phone at 1-877-438-4338.