In a recent study from RewardExpert.com., the fifty U.S. states were ranked in terms of risk for identity theft and credit card fraud. Unfortunately, Michigan came in fifth, which means that consumers in Michigan should take extra precautions against identity theft and credit card fraud. In the wake of the Equifax Data Breach of 2017, many Michigan consumers are already on high alert against identity thieves and fraudsters. However, most consumers can still exercise more caution by following a few basic safety tips. By making a few adjustments to your normal habits, you can do a lot toward protecting your finances and credit scores from fraudsters and identity thieves.
How Statistics Support the Fact that Michigan Consumers are Highly at Risk for Identity Theft and Credit Card Fraud
Unfortunately, according to the RewardExpert.com study, in Michigan during 2017, the average consumer lost $1,517.03 to credit card fraud. In addition, the average financial loss from identity theft totaled $2,762.87. Obviously, not every single consumer in Michigan was targeted by fraudsters or identity thieves, so many consumers in the state lost much more.
Furthermore, is difficult to tabulate the extent of credit report and credit score damage caused by fraud and identity theft in Michigan in 2017. While not as immediately noticeable, fraudulent items on credit reports can harm credit scores for years, especially if they go unnoticed. In fact, victims of credit card fraud and identity theft may find that, moving forward, many lifegoals are more difficult to achieve. For example, they may have trouble getting new lines of credit, financing vehicles, or getting mortgage approval.
Eight Ways that Michigan Consumers Can Prevent Identity Theft and Credit Card Fraud
Even in the face of past security breaches and any that might happen in the future, Michigan consumers can still protect themselves against identity theft and credit card fraud. Here are a few of the most important actions you can take to safeguard your finances and credit scores.
Strategically freeze or lock your credit reports.
Consumers in Michigan can prevent fraudsters from opening accounts in their names by freezing or locking their credit reports. Just remember that you must freeze or lock your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus for full protection. Also, if you need to apply for credit or financing, make sure to unfreeze or unlock your credit reports well before filling out applications.
Never reveal personal information to strangers over the phone or through emails.
Occasionally, it is necessary to share data through emails or over the phone, but, before you do, research the recipient and verify that they are who they say they are. Sadly, hackers and identity thieves are often good at what they do. So, even if a caller sounds legitimate, or an email looks authentic, you should do your research before sharing data.
Use complicated passwords, and change them frequently.
Michigan consumers must remember that a lot of hackers and identity thieves excel at guessing passwords, especially if they’ve looked at your social media pages. Therefore, you should avoid incorporating personal information in your passwords. For example, don’t use your pet’s name, birthdates, or favorite sports teams. Instead, create passwords from random letters, numbers, and symbols. Then, change these passwords at least once a month.
Never share personal data or payment information while using public Wi-Fi.
Sure, public Wi-Fi is free and convenient, but it is also easily hackable. So, while using the Wi-Fi provided by airports or your favorite coffee shop, stick with casual internet browsing. Never check your financial statements while on unsecure networks. It is also wise for Michigan consumers to avoid shopping or paying bills while on public Wi-Fi.
Shred all physical documents that contain sensitive information.
Never forget that not all identity thieves are techno-savvy hackers. In fact, when it comes to stealing consumer data, some scammers still rely on old-fashioned dumpster diving. So, with this in mind, always shred your personal documents – or use an inexpensive shredding service. Even if it is just a credit card offer, it could contain enough data to do harm if found by the wrong person.
Always use caution while using card readers at gas pumps or ATMs.
These days, card “skimmers” placed in card readers at gas pumps or ATMs are more advanced than ever. They are smaller, harder to detect, and many are equipped with Bluetooth technology. This means that fraudsters can install them, then steal payment data from a vehicle parked nearby. So, avoid gas pumps or ATMs in remote, poorly-lit areas. Also, if anything about a card reader seems suspicious, find a different ATM, or pay for your gas inside of the gas station.
Never lose sight of your purse or wallet while out in public.
Just as some identity thieves may look through your trash to steal your information, others may steal your purse or wallet. Other fraudsters might use concealed card readers to swipe your payment information while leaving your cards where they are. This is even more difficult to catch, and buys scammers time before their victims realized what happened. Therefore, you should always keep your belongings close, and never bring more payment cards/personal information than you absolutely need.
Regularly check your financial statements and credit reports.
Finally, no matter what you do, identity thieves and fraudsters may steal your data. However, you can minimize the potential damage if you catch the crime quickly. For this reason, all consumers in Michigan should check their bank and credit card statements daily, or at least weekly, for suspicious activity.
As for your credit reports, you should check all three (from the three major credit bureaus) at least once every 12 months. Just go to www.annualcreditreport.com to request free annual copies of your credit reports from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Then, once you have access to your most recent credit reports, review them carefully for fraudulent transactions or bogus accounts.
If you spot any signs of identity theft on any of your credit reports, file a police report immediately. Next, contact Credit Repair Lawyers of America in Michigan. Our team of in-house credit pros will help you through the identity theft recovery process so you don’t have to deal with creditors and the credit bureaus on your own. In addition, you’ll get access to an experienced credit attorney who will do whatever it takes to get fraudulent items removed from your credit reports – legally and for free.
Free Legal Help for Michigan Identity Theft Victims
Don’t let fraudulent items on your credit reports bring your credit score down. At Credit Repair Lawyers of America in Michigan, we’ve been cleaning up credit reports for consumers since 2008 for free. How do we do it? All of our fees come from the defendants in settled cases. This is why our clients pay nothing for the work we do.
Let’s start the conversation about what we can do for your credit. Set up your free consultation today by calling Attorney Gary Nitzkin at (248) 353-2882 or contact us on our contact page.
For more information about Free Credit Repair After Identity Theft, please visit https://www.creditrepairlawyersam.com/michigan/id-theft-repairs/.