As an independent worker, there’s a lot to keep track of when it comes to keeping your finances secure, from filing taxes and tracking earnings to saving for the future. And while we know it can feel like a lot to stay on top of all of that, there’s another aspect to keeping your finances secure that’s important to pay attention to. It’s critical to make sure that your finances and your financial reputation are kept safe from identity theft.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft happens when a person steals a person’s identifying information in order to commit fraud. There is a broad array of information that they can steal, from social security numbers to birthdates and bank account numbers, as well as numerous kinds of fraud and theft that the information is used for. There are numerous kinds of identity theft:
- Bank Account Takeover
- Credit Card Fraud
- Debit Card Fraud
- Driver’s License/Passport
- Social Security Number
There are also additional kinds of theft based on property ownership, such as mortgage fraud and home title fraud, and other kinds based on the latest technology.
What Happens When Your Identity Is Stolen?
The most common side effect of having your identity stolen is having credit problems in the future. If suddenly you find yourself being denied credit, such as a mortgage or utility services, it may be that you are a victim of identity theft.
Consequences can even be potentially worse. With criminal identity theft, criminals use a driver’s license or identifying details to impersonate you to the police. In those instances, you could find yourself receiving notices in the mail that you need to appear before a judge or are racking up fines for minor violations.
What Can You Do to Recover from Identity Theft?
It is important to pay attention to any of the symptoms that you may have fallen victim to identity theft. If you notice any, react immediately, because it is not easy to take care of. You will need to report the identity theft, and it will likely involve a considerable amount of paperwork. In addition to filing the report with the Federal Trade Commission, they also have resources for creating an identity theft recovery plan.
How You Can Protect Yourself Before Something Happens
Don’t wait for something to happen before you protect yourself. There are several steps you can take to minimize your risk of becoming a victim.
- Secure numbers like social security and bank accounts
- Keep mail secure
- Practice smart security on the internet and mobile phones
- Shred documents including receipts with personal information
- Review your credit annually
Additionally, you can put a freeze on your credit ensuring no one can open an account in your name, although you won’t be able to either while the freeze is in effect. Purchasing identity theft protection is an option which ensures that you are protected should it happen.
It’s important to make a plan for avoiding identity theft now, and stick to it. That is the only way to make sure your finances are secure.
About the Author: Alexandra Mendez-Diez has worked as a freelance writer and editor for the past decade. She loves that the job entails writing about such a wide variety of topics, ranging from cattle-handling best practices to how-to guides for tracing ancestry through cookbooks, with all kinds of exciting stops along the way.