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Protecting yourself from identity theft

Not a day goes by without some news story of a major data breach, the personal information of millions being stolen from a seemingly trustworthy and secure business. In addition to direct and indirect financial loss, identity theft and the theft of personal financial data cause severe emotional distress for the victims. Adding to the hardship, the same company that allowed the theft of information will then expect or require victims to provide them with even more personal information to sign up for credit monitoring or to file a claim.

The magnitude of identity theft

According to a recent Bureau of Justice Statistics survey approximately 16.6 million people in the United States were victims of some form of identity theft in 2012. The total financial loss is estimated to be in excess of $24 billion. The FTC says that 43 percent of identity thefts were tax related. That is twice the number of tax identity thefts of 2011. Thieves can use social security numbers to apply for a fraudulent refund or when applying for a job. The IRS will then think you have income that you did not report or that you have already filed your taxes and received your refund.

Child identity theft

The internet and new technology create many risks for your children. Child identity theft is an increasingly prevalent crime. Thieves can use your child's social security number to apply for government benefits. They may also apply for credit cards and other loans or use it when renting an apartment and for activating utilities. Schools require a lot of detailed information about your child for them to be enrolled, but many do not use proper safeguards when collecting, storing, and disposing of that same sensitive information.

Medical identity theft

When your medical records are compromised, the criminals can use your identity to get prescription drugs, charge you for their doctor visits, make insurance claims and undergo medical procedures. Mixing your medical history with that of someone else results in improper treatment for your conditions and could hinder or prevent you from getting the medical attention and medication that you need.

What you can do

While there is no way that you can entirely prevent identity theft, there are steps you can take to protect yourself with early detection and extra precautions. You can find advice and guidance on credit monitoring for debt counseling; early detection is essential for you to file claims and put a stop to fraudulent activities.

If you have reason to believe someone has used your SSN for a tax refund or when applying for a job, contact the IRS as soon as possible. They will work with you to properly file your return and help you to protect your account from any future fraudulent claims.

Ask schools and other organizations that require your child's personal information how they safeguard data.

Store any medical records in a secure location. Shred any insurance forms, prescriptions, and doctor statements that are no longer needed. Also destroy the labels on any prescription bottles prior to disposing of them.

File an identity theft report with the FTC and police if you have been a victim. You may need the reports to help repair issues on your credit report.

Here're some tips for Internet security. If you need to use public WIFI, you should consider using VPN to connect to the Internet. Signup for a good VPN provider to have your VPN account handy to be used. Today there're many VPN providers available to choose. For example, there're even some China VPNs to choose from. Make sure you choose a VPN provider that is reputable and reliable!

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