Identity theft is on the rise. In 2016, approximately 15.4 million people in the U.S. were victims of identity theft, according to the Insurance Information Institute. That’s an increase of more than 2 million people from the previous year.
While everyone is at risk, service members are twice as likely to be targeted. Deployed service members often have limited access to their banking and credit card accounts and may go weeks without checking them. This provides ample time for fraud to go unnoticed.
The use of Social Security numbers also puts service members at risk for identity theft. Although Social Security numbers are no longer used on mailing labels and prescription medicine bottles, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs still uses them as a primary means of identification for veterans and active duty service members. And in 2015, a cyberattack left many military members vulnerable after the personal records of millions of federal employees were stolen.
There are several proactive measures you can take to prevent identity theft, but do you know what to do if it happens to you? Using recommendations from the Federal Trade Commission and insight from USAA Advice Director Matthew Angel, we created a 10-step identity theft guide to help you navigate your way back to financial security if you do become a victim.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself in advance. The first one? Paying attention to anything out of the ordinary. But even that doesn’t make you exempt!
“Even if you are on top of things, it can happen to you,” warns Angel. His advice is to watch for red flags: receiving a denial for credit you didn’t apply for, a welcome notice from an account you didn’t open, or if you stop receiving regular correspondence from your current bank or credit company, because fraudsters have taken over your accounts and changed the address.
Additional preventive measures that members can elect include choosing to opt out of the Consumer Credit Reporting Industry list in order to stop unsolicited credit card and pre-approved applications from bombarding their mailbox and potentially getting into the wrong hands.
After you’ve taken action to stop the initial impact of identity theft, you can start to take care of the after-shock damage.
Depending on the severity of your fraud case, you may need to take the following additional steps:
By taking the above action steps, you can begin to reverse the immediate and long-term effects of identity theft.
“It’s actually kind of funny that we’re talking about this right now,” Angel said. “This past weekend, I received a fraud alert text from USAA about a suspicious charge. I called them and they took care of it immediately. I’m so glad that I work and bank with an institution that has my back. I was busy enjoying the afternoon with my daughter and USAA was busy protecting my financial security.”
Safety guidelines are not intended to be all inclusive, but are provided for your consideration. Please use your own judgment to determine what safety features/procedures should be used in each unique situation.
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