Learn about identity theft
Take Steps Now to Prevent Identity Theft
At The Hajdari Group, ensuring your privacy is a top priority. We devote extensive technological and human resources to protecting the information you entrust to us. But we want our clients and their families to be able to protect themselves, too. That’s why we’re working to educate consumers about guarding their valuable personal and financial information against fraudulent use. It’s simply part of our commitment to helping individuals and families be financially secure and independent, both now and in the future.
The More You Know About Identity Theft, the Better You Can Protect Yourself.
By definition, identity theft is the use, or attempted use, of an account or identifying information without the owner’s permission. Normally, it involves stealing an individual’s personal information and using it illegally for financial gain or other fraudulent purposes.
How Big is the Problem?
Statistics About Identity Theft and Fraud
Almost anyone can be a target of identity theft. This year alone, approximately 9 million US adults—or 4% of the U.S. population—will be victims of identity theft and identity fraud (the illegal use of stolen information).
The Better Business Bureau recently sponsored a study of identity fraud in the U.S. The study revealed that:
- The total one-year cost of ID fraud in the U.S. was $56.6 billion, averaging almost $6,400 per case.
- Average out-of-pocket cost for ID theft victims was $422, but 68% of victims incurred no out-of-pocket expenses at all.
- Victims spent an average of 40 hours resolving ID fraud issues.
- 36% of victims were able to identify the person who misused their information. Among those cases, almost half were perpetrated by someone known to the victim.
- Almost half of the identity fraud cases were detected by the victims themselves.
- 47% of victims were able to identify the source of the information theft.
- Internet use accounted for less than 10% of ID fraud cases. In fact, the study concluded that Internet use can lead to lower damages and faster detection.
- Adults 65+ had the lowest rate of identity fraud; adults 25-34 the highest
How Does Identity Theft Work?
Identity thieves traffic in personal information including:
- Your name, address, phone number, and date of birth
- Bank account, Social Security, PIN and credit card numbers
- Other personal information that can be used to access your protected bank accounts, online shopping accounts, credit card accounts and others. For example, you might use your mother’s maiden name, pet’s name, or children’s names or birthdays as passwords or access codes.
Your personal information can be stolen in a variety of ways.
Tactics range from simply snatching your wallet or purse to stealing documents from your trash or watching you enter numbers at an ATM or checkout counter. Another strategy is to contact you by phone, misrepresent who’s calling, and get you to give out personal information.
More sophisticated and often large-scale methods involve:
- Hacking into large computer systems and capturing personal data from accounts.
- Distributing massive spams that prompt recipients to send personal information in order to prevent some false danger or obtain a false benefit.
- Creating bogus Websites to get users to enter account numbers or passwords.
Once thieves have obtained your personal information, they can use it to:
- Make purchases using stolen credit card numbers, or open new bank accounts and write bad checks on them.
- Create new credit lines for loans, credit card accounts, or phone service, and then not pay the bills.
- Drain your bank account through counterfeit checks, stolen credit/debit cards or fraudulent electronic transfers.
- File bankruptcy in your name to avoid paying debts or being evicted.
- Assume a new identity–yours– to avoid being prosecuted for crimes.
What Can I Do to Avoid It?
Simple steps can help you avoid becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud.
You have more weapons against identity theft than you may think. Being aware of the threat and exercising common sense are two of the most important.
Recognize that your personal information is valuable to thieves, and make protecting it part of your normal routine at home, at work, at locations where you do business, on vacation—everywhere.
The Better Business Bureau offers an excellent self-quiz you can take to evaluate how well you are protecting yourself against identity theft. In addition, use the links below for more common-sense precautions you can take.
- Keep all personal information, including passwords and account numbers, securely hidden in your home.
- Secure your purse or wallet at work and elsewhere.
- Make sure no one is lingering nearby before you give personal information over the phone or in person, or enter it into an ATM or other device.
- Use only secure mailboxes for incoming and outgoing mail.
- Shred personal documents before discarding.
- Ask about security procedures of companies with whom you do business.
- Carry your Social Security card with you. When you go out, carry only those credit cards you need.
- Give out your Social Security number, account numbers, passwords or any other private information in response to e-mail, phone or in-person requests from sources you don’t know.
- Enter personal information on Websites you don’t know to be legitimate and secure.
Important note: Children and teenagers can be targets of identity thieves, too. In fact, they make particularly attractive victims because their non-existent credit records are completely unblemished. In addition, it may take months or even years for the theft of a young person’s identity to be discovered. So it’s essential for parents to:
- Be on the lookout for any evidence of misuse of a child’s Social Security, bank account, or credit card number or any other personal financial information.
- Teach children and teens to take basic precautions against revealing personal information.
- Make sure any computer the child is using is secure. (See Computer precautions).
For more information, see Is Your Teen’s Identity Protected?.
Account Management Precautions
- Use electronic transactions—such as online banking—instead of paper statements, bills and checks.
- Close any inactive accounts and destroy old or expired credit cards.
- Write only the last four digits of account numbers, not the whole number, on checks when paying bills.
- Check credit card statements against receipts.
- Monitor all your accounts regularly and report any suspicious activity to the account issuer.
- Review your credit report, or “credit file disclosure,” regularly. Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 you are entitled to obtain one free credit report per year by calling 877-322-8228 or at AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Update your computer’s virus protection, firewall, browser security features and other privacy software tools frequently to be sure you have the latest version available. Set all software to automatically update your system when new security features are released. (visit http://update.microsoft.com for all Microsoft products)
- Resist opening files or links from unknown sources. Instead, type the URL of the site you want directly into the address line.
- Be creative in choosing passwords for your online accounts and don’t use obvious ones like birthdates, initials, or addresses. Add numeric, upper-case and special characters (!@#$) for additional strength Change your passwords frequently, too.
- Use only secure banking, shopping or other business Websites that have “https” and/or a padlock icon in the URL and/or a padlock icon in the status bar at the bottom of your screen, signifying that all transactions are secured.
- Avoid storing personal information on a laptop computer unless absolutely necessary.
- Run a “wipe” utility before disposing of any computer. That’s the only way to completely erase all information.
What Measures Does The Hajdari Group Take to Protect My Information?
At The Hajdari Group, information security is a top priority. We recognize the trust you place in us when you disclose personal information. Ensuring the security of that information is at the core of our business.
More than 750 of our professional associates work exclusively in security management. From technological safeguards to employee policies and operating procedures, we maintain constant vigilance where your privacy is concerned.
At our international headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida, security guards are on site 24 hours a day. The security desk is staffed during business hours for visitor check-in and employees are required to wear identification badges when on the premises. All high-traffic areas, restricted-access areas and building exteriors are under video surveillance.
Our technological systems are monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for signs of tampering or unauthorized activity. We employ the latest firewall and anti-virus technology as well as specialized programs to prevent and detect intrusion. We also maintain strict controls to limit employee access to the systems.
Our information technology professionals are constantly researching and developing enhancements to keep us at the vanguard of data security. A team of independent auditors reviews our technological systems quarterly, biannually and annually.
Our employee policies place major emphasis on preserving confidentiality. Newly hired associates receive comprehensive information about our privacy policies and procedures in the employee handbook, as well as initial training in security awareness. Then, on a regular basis, all employees must attend additional training in ethics and security. Our regulatory compliance specialists ensure that we meet the requirements of federal legislation regarding customers’ privacy.
The financial advisors affiliated with our company throughout the country also receive training at our national conferences, including a presentation by the FBI on information security.
Our professional Business Continuity team focuses on preparing for potential business disruptions due to unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters. Their goal is to ensure continuity of critical operations and preserve data security even during emergency situations. They oversee management of our remote operations center and emergency functions such as data retention, backup procedures and off-site information storage.
How Will I Know if Someone Has Stolen My Personal Data?
Be on the lookout for signs that someone is misusing your information. The sooner you can spot the problem, the faster and less expensively you’ll be able to get your affairs back to normal.
Some of the warning signs include:
- Unusual activity on a credit card or bank account.
- Unsolicited credit cards you didn’t apply for.
- Bounced checks resulting from unauthorized withdrawals from your account.
- Unwarranted collection notices or calls from collection agencies.
- Unexpected bills for accounts you never opened.
- Missing bills or statements that you would normally receive. A false change of address may have been filed to prevent you from receiving bills that would reveal unauthorized activity on your accounts.
Another “red flag” is being denied credit when you know you qualify, or receiving less favorable credit than you deserve. Someone may have compromised your credit rating by making fraudulent transactions using your account information.
Also be alert to damage to your driving record by violations you didn’t commit. These can even result in revocation or suspension of your license.
In general, watch for any unusual circumstance that might suggest someone is using your accounts, driver’s license, or personal information.
What If I Am a Victim of Identity Theft?
The first step is knowing what action to take
Many public and private agencies are working together to fight identity theft. By notifying them that you have been a victim, you help them track down the offenders.
- Notify affected businesses, such as banks, stores where you have accounts, and other credit issuers. Tell them what has happened, and close the accounts.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338 for complete information about filing a complaint and taking other actions.
- Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus.
- Equifax: 800-525-6285
- Experian: 888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 800-680-7289
Ask one of the bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit report, which will help prevent new credit accounts from being opened without your express permission.
- Contact your local police and request a copy of your report.
Keep complete, accurate records of all the steps you take in reporting identity theft.
When you notify various businesses and agencies, do so both by phone and in writing. Include a date/time log of phone calls, including the names of people with whom you speak and what they tell you. Also keep copies of any correspondence, along with the names, phone numbers and addresses of anyone you contact. This will be extremely important if you have to prepare a case to recover damages.
- If your Social Security card has been stolen, contact the Social Security Administration for a replacement card.
- If the theft involves your mail, contact the Postal Inspection Service, the primary law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service.
- If your driver’s license has been stolen, contact the issuing office to cancel it and obtain a replacement.
- Check the Federal Trade Commission’s Web pages devoted to resolving specific problems—such as fraudulent bank withdrawals, misused credit cards, stolen Social Security numbers, mail theft, driver’s license theft, and others—for additional details about what to do.
Where Can I Learn More About This?
You can help arm yourself against identity thieves by taking advantage of the wealth of information available. Here are just a few of the best online resources, ranging from facts and tips to specific steps in reporting identity crimes:
- The Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft website is a comprehensive online resource. You can also call the FTC at 877-438-4338 and request printed materials about identity theft.
- The Better Business Bureau offers valuable reports and articles about new ID theft tactics and measures to protect yourself and your family.
- Looks too Good to Be True.com is a site sponsored jointly by the federal government and private industry. It includes consumer alerts, new scams underway, reports of actual identity theft cases, and other useful information.
- Fight Identity Theft is a privately-developed site that includes the latest news about identity theft and fraud, preventive strategies, online discussion forums and a great deal of practical information for consumers.
- AnnualCreditReport.com is the central site where you can request your free credit file disclosure, commonly called a credit report, once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies. You are entitled by law to these free reports.
- OnGuard Online provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help consumers guard against Internet fraud, secure their computers, and protect personal information.
- The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is specifically devoted to “cyber crime,” including identity crimes carried out via the Internet. Sponsored by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, IC3 provides valuable alerts regarding the newest types of cyber crimes.