Living Well
Book Reviews

Identity Theft & Financial Fraud

Privacy & Security

Unfortunately, some unscrupulous people resort to dishonest methods when they are in need of money. For example, they may steal your personal information and use your identity to open new credit cards or store accounts Ė both of which will damage your credit and need to be rectified as soon as possible.

You should contact your bank and credit card companies immediately if you suspect anything suspicious, and then file an official report on the criminal activity with the local law enforcement agency. The most important thing is to prevent any further damage from being done to your financial reputation. Go to www.justice.gov for more information regarding this topic.

There are a few simple steps that you can take to avoid falling into the traps of financial fraud and identity theft. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is carrying their social security cards on their person, either in a wallet or bag. Losing this can lead to financial and personal chaos if a dishonest person finds it and utilizes it for his or her own use. Keep sensitive materials and identification documents safe at home, and only take them with you when absolutely necessary (such as when required to get a State ID card or passport).

Personal information is often placed online in the form of social media accounts. Your photos, birthday, first and last names, and location can all be used by identity thieves and are easily found on most websites that allow you to make an account and write posts. By taking a few simple steps, you can greatly reduce the chances that this will happen to you.

For example, you can avoid posting personal information on social media, review your content to make sure that it does not provide any information that is too revealing, and only accept friends whom you know personally and would trust with such valuable details about your life. Bear in mind that even friends and family can steal your identity, so you can never be too careful about your financial security.

Social media is a critical source of your personal information. Your name, birthday, location, and a wide variety of details are typically available with few obstacles for identity thieves to overcome.

Avoiding Financial Fraud

Financial and investment fraud -- committed through scams -- can seriously erode your economic security. You can take a few simple steps to avoid the worst of these crimes and preserve your economic stability.

  • Check Your Monthly Statements & Investments

    Keeping an eye on your financial figures can mean saving yourself money and a lot of hassle in the long term. You will be readier if any issues develop, and can easily remedy any disasters caused by fraudsters.

  • Be Careful with Your PIN

    Always protect your personal identification number (PIN) and never reveal it to anyone! Doing so would allow that person to access your accounts and potentially steal your funds.

  • Protect Your Computer and/or Mobile Devices

    Use antivirus software whenever possible and avoid clicking on suspicious links. Hackers are skilled and can steal your information in many ways. Be careful and use common sense to avoid long-lasting problems.

  • Do Not Put Checks in the Mailbox

    To prevent the theft of your checks, you should either switch to paying all your bills online or place all outgoing envelopes in post office boxes. While a thief may not be able to steal money simply with one of your checks, s/he could use the routing and account numbers with your name and address to pretend to be you!

  • Only Donate or Give Money to Trustworthy Sources

    Be wary when sending money to another person, particularly if you do not know that person very well. Many scams involve wiring money to someone who claims they will pay you back a larger amount, and the desire for free money and being trusting of strangers are often the main reasons this works for scammers.

  • Donít Fall for Email Scams

    Anybody who claims that s/he will make you rich is trying to scam you out of your hard-earned money. Money is not free and anyone saying otherwise should not be trusted with anything of yours.

  • Donít Give Out Financial Information

    Protecting your financial accounts means firstly keeping your information personal and secretive, and secondly recovering from any issues that arise.

  • Never Give Out Your Social Security Number!

    This is absolutely the most important concept to remember: never tell anyone your Social Security Number (SSN) unless that source is absolutely, 100% trusted! It may be required when applying for a job or when you are in a similar situation, but otherwise you need to protect it because your identity rests upon its safety.

Recovery from Fraud

Identity theft can be prevented by following some simple steps, such as being cautious when banking online and periodically checking your financial statements. However, you need to act quickly if your account(s) and financial well-being are indeed harmed.

The most important thing to do following an attack on your financial identity is to mitigate any further damage. Immediately freeze all credit and bank accounts, and then report the damages to the police. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help fight back against the fraud, and you can go to www.justice.gov for further information regarding this topic.



Never give out your social security number (SSN) to a stranger!