NASHVILLE – As identity thieves prey on unsuspecting Tennesseans, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance reminds consumers to be vigilant and focus on identity theft detection and prevention methods.
The Federal Trade Commission’s Sentinel Network identified over 15,000 instances of identity theft across Tennessee in 2021. During Identity Theft Awareness Week (Jan. 31-Feb. 4, 2022), consumers can learn tips and information that can help consumers spot the red flags that can help them avoid identity thieves’ tricks and traps.
“Identity theft is a growing problem, and, unfortunately, identity thieves are using technology to become more sophisticated,” said TDCI Assistant Commissioner Alex Martin. “Because identity theft can lead to significant financial damage, it’s crucial that Tennesseans take steps today in order to protect themselves and their loved ones from identity theft.”
TDCI oversees the licensure of credit and debt collection professionals through the Collection Service Board, Debt Management Program, and the Credit Services Business registration program.
To help consumers avoid identity thieves, TDCI is sharing these helpful consumer tips:
- Pay attention to what you receive and leave in your mailbox, especially if it is not a secure (locked) mailbox. Personal checks, credit card statements, bank statements, and utility and medical bills contain valuable personal information that could be a veritable goldmine for scammers. Consider having these statements and payments delivered electronically instead and using a postal drop box.
- Be mindful of what documents you put in your trash. Identity thieves are willing to dig through garbage to find valuable information. To reduce the risk of identity theft, consider purchasing a good paper shredder ($50-60), and if the document has anything beyond your name and address on it, shred it. Can’t afford a shredder? Free paper shredding events and services might be available in your community.
- When accessing your financial accounts online, never click on a link from an email, even if you think it is from your bank. Scammers have become increasingly sophisticated at creating emails and links that resemble legitimate companies’ emails. If you are in doubt, contact your financial institution directly at the customer service number listed on their website.
- When you are shopping online, do not enter personal information or financial data unless you are 100% confident the site is secure.
- Pay attention to what you post on social media. While it is fun to answer those questionnaires about your first car, your high school mascot, or your first pet’s name, the information you provide is an easy way for scammers and hackers to figure out information used in passwords and answers to security questions.
- Stay on top of your finances. Awareness is one of your best defenses against identity theft so take advantage of all the free tools offered by the institutions you deal with. Most financial institutions offer multiple types of alerts you can set up for your accounts, and many offer the ability to freeze accounts until you are ready to use them. Purchases post to accounts almost instantly and you can review those as often as you like.
- Make it hard for thieves to get your information. Reduce your exposure to identity thieves by storing your personal and financial information in a lockbox or an inexpensive safe. Traveling? Never leave personal or financial information in your vehicle.
- What should you do if identity theft happens to you? Unfortunately, identity thieves sometimes defeat the most careful consumer. If it happens to you, report identity theft and get a recovery plan at FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov website. Consider purchasing an identity theft protection program for yourself and family members. An identity theft protection program will monitor potential identity theft threats and alert you before it occurs.