Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft in Alabama
According to the Identity Theft Labs, identity theft throughout the United States rose by 11% last year, meaning that more than 11 million Americans have had their identities compromised. In the Federal Trade Commission’s 2009 report, more than 3,500 complaints were received.
As identity theft has continued to rise since first becoming a target for shady criminal groups, so too have the stakes. As criminals become more sophisticated in their methods of extracting personally identifiable information, they have begun withdrawing tremendous amounts of money in other people’s names, receiving credit card in their names, and even signing up for mortgages with the names of other people. Because the stakes are so high with identity theft, it is incredibly important that you take steps to make sure that the identity of yourself and your loved ones is secure. In this article, we will take a look at how you can protect your identity in Alabama.
First, though, we should explain how identity theft law works in Alabama. In addition to any federal charges that can be lain upon an individual caught stealing the identity of another person, Alabama can punish criminals by $5,000 per incident, or up to three times the dollar value that was stolen. The criminal is also liable for any attorney fees and court costs.
Identity Protection Tips in Alabama
- Protect your Social Security Number.
Because one of the most important aspects of applying for any financial transaction is your Social Security Number, it is important to make sure that this number is kept as secret as possible. Many people carry their Social Security Card in their wallet – and this is something that no one should do in case of theft. Additionally, give out your SSN only when absolutely necessary, and make sure that whenever you have to give it out that only necessary parties will be able to see it.
- Safeguard legal and financial documents
While it is important to keep important documents, like health care forms and investment details, ready and at hand in case you need them, it is just as important to make sure that they are secure. There are two things that every person should do to make sure that these form stay safe: lock up necessary documents, and destroy unnecessary/non-critical documents.
Many filing cabinets come with locks, and one of these can be a great investment in case your home gets broken into, or someone attempts to rifle through your paperwork while you aren’t around to monitor them. Alternatively, you could opt for an actual safe. While safes tend to be much more secure and durable (some even being able to withstand home fires), these tend to not have as much space as a filing cabinet.
Whenever it becomes apparent that specific documents are no longer necessary, you should shred, burn, or otherwise destroy them immediately. Note that this does not mean simply throwing them away! Some more enterprising criminals have taken to digging through the trash and refuse from homes and office buildings.
- Know who you give your information to
No matter how you are contacted, make sure that the person requesting personal information from you or your family is who they say they are. This can be very difficult if they contact you, whether via email, in person, or over a telephone line.
One way to verify that you’re speaking with the right party is to terminate any communication initiated by another party, and look up that institution’s information on your own. This means that if someone calls you claiming to be from your bank, you should politely end the conversation, look up the bank’s number on your financial statements, and call them yourself. If you receive an email of the same nature, then repeat this process by going to your financial institution’s website.
Generally speaking, financial institution’s themselves will not ask you for personally identifying information. If anyone asks you for information of any kind without your first contacting them, you should always decline to answer and instead follow their official channels.
- Keep a close eye on your credit report
Because obtaining your credit report requires going through a specific service, we are unable to recommend a specific credit reporting agency for obtaining a credit report. However, you should make sure to take advantage of free credit report offers, or even paid ones, on at least an annual basis so that you can catch credit anomalies and errors before they become major problems.
Although accidents and other faulty charges can often happen, weird spots in your credit history are indicative that your identity has been compromised. This is because any time that a person files for any financial transaction, their credit score, or credit report, receives note of it. By keeping a close watch on your credit score, you can spot what might be someone trying to steal your identity, and begin to take steps to repair any damages done.
Below, we have compiled some links that can take you to articles and web sites that deal with identity theft in Alabama.
- Alabama man sentenced in identity theft phone scam (http://www2.alabamas13.com/news/2011/mar/18/birmingham-man-sentenced-phone-identity-theft-scam-ar-1597576/)
- Identity Theft Resource Center (http://www.idtheftcenter.org/artman2/publish/states/Alabama.shtml)
- The North Alabama Identity Theft Task Force (http://alabamaidtheft.com/)