Beware: you may be a victim of identity theft and not even know it!

Your identity has power. That’s right. With your name, date of birth, and social security number, you can do just about anything! That means that if this information gets in the wrong hands, your identity may be at risk. If a stranger obtains your personal information, he/she can use your name and credentials to sign-up for a credit card, apply for a loan, and even file your taxes. Therefore, you must keep your personally identifiable information secure.

Identity theft occurs when someone you know or may not know uses your information without your knowledge or consent. The damage that results from this can range anywhere from someone stealing your magazine subscription to opening a series of accounts using your name without the intention of paying the bills.When this happens, you are left with significant debt and a ruined credit score. It can take years to recover from an attack of this magnitude, and despite the amount of money you invest to repair the damage, your identity may never fully recover.

Most times, victims of this crime are unaware that they have been victimized. Identity thieves often use a method to covertly use your information. By formulating synthetic personas, identities that use both real and false information,they are able to mask their activity for as long as possible. For example, many victims only find out their information has been stolen when they personally apply for a loan or credit.

Your information can be found in multiple places, including your trash can, bills, account statements, and even online!Have you ever received a phone call from an unknown number requesting your name and sometimes even your credit card information? That’s a type of identity fraud known as phishing.To minimize the risk of having your identity stolen, avoid releasing your personal information to an unknown party before verifying the authenticity of the caller. Remember, most established organizations will not request your social security number over the phone. Activating a two-step verification whenever possible will also help to secure your information.

The most common type of identity theft is credit card fraud which can happen anytime you swipe your credit card or insert the chip.Believe it or not, there are hands-free ways of stealing information. Criminals use scanners when standing near you to steal the information stored inside your wallet. Since using credit cards is so prevalent, we are all vulnerable to having our identity stolen each day!

To ensure that your identity and the identity of your loved ones is safe, and to prevent you from experiencing the overwhelming damage, debt, and frustration that comes with having your identity stolen, tune-in next week for Part 2: Risk Mitigation Techniques.

Written By: Guy Fronstin and Ramza Barbosa