Despite the efforts of law enforcement, identity theft is becoming more sophisticated and the number of new victims is growing. In general, consumers are protected against liability for unauthorized accounts or transactions under federal and state law and by financial industry practices. However, innocent victims of identity theft sometimes do suffer losses. And if the crime is not detected early, people may face months or years cleaning up the damage to their reputation and credit rating, and sometimes they lose out on loans, jobs and other opportunities in the meantime.
The evolution of identity theft includes the spread of fraudulent phishing e-mails. These are unsolicited e-mails purportedly from a legitimate source — perhaps your bank, utility company, well-known merchants, your Internet service provider or even a trusted government agency such as the FDIC — attempting to trick you into divulging personal information.
Identity theft can affect consumers in many ways, but there are also many ways to keep your identity from being hijacked, and to assist you if you have been a victim of it:
- Protect your Social Security number (SSN), credit card and debit card numbers, PINs (personal identification numbers), passwords and other personal information
- Protect your incoming and outgoing mail
- Keep your financial trash clean
- Keep a close watch on your bank account statements and credit card bills
- Avoid identity theft on the internet
- Exercise your new rights under FACTA to review your credit record and report fraudulent activity
For more information on identity theft, please visit www.ftc.gov/idtheft.