With Cyber Monday just around the corner, many shoppers in Hollywood and South Florida are going online to cash in on the best online deals. While online shopping can be a fun, budget-friendly, and safe experience, however, many customers do worry about identity theft and online scams – and with reason. Identity theft can cost you money and months of hassle. Correcting the problem can take months or even years.
Identity theft happens when someone assumes your identity, using identification information they have scoured from private documents or other sources, and uses your identity to steal money from you, open accounts in your name, or to commit other fraudulent identities. Victims of identity theft may find their credit cards charged without their permission, may find money withdrawn from their accounts, or may find their good credit ratings ruined.
Florida and Identity Theft Laws
In Florida, identity theft is a crime. The penalties are especially severe if someone uses public records to steal someone’s identity. In addition to criminal charges, identity thieves can also face lawsuits. If you have been targeted by identity theft and think negligence may have played a part, contact an attorney for legal advice. You may be able to file a legal claim and pursue damages as well as any money stolen from you.
Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft
There are several ways to protect yourself from identity thieves:
1) Stay vigilant for warning signs.
No matter how careful you are, you may become a target and the sooner you act the more you can protect your identity and money. Always check your accounts (including bank accounts and credit cards) for suspicious activity and report it at once. Ask for a full investigation. Get a copy of your credit report every year to check it for any suspicious activity. If you get mail about any accounts you didn’t open or start getting calls from collection agencies about charges you didn’t make, you may have been targeted by identity thieves. The Florida Attorney General has a step-by-step plan of attack describing what you can do.
2) Don’t assume you’re safe by staying offline.
Identity thieves can use the mail, the phone, or information other companies keep about you to commit identity theft. Plenty of customers in Hollywood and South Florida are targeted without ever shopping online or even having an email account.
3) Be careful who you do business with.
Companies may keep personal information about you, including your credit card information, birth date, and contact information. In some hands, this information may be enough to defraud you. As a customer, you have a right to ask how your private information is used and how it’s protected. Patronize companies who are serious about your personal information.
4) Be stingy with personal information.
Businesses like to gather a lot of information about customers to help them with marketing efforts, but most retailers don’t need to know personal information. Unless information is needed for a transaction, don’t share it.
5) Use good personal information habits.
When online and sharing any personal information (such as contact information or credit card information) check the website to make sure it uses encryption. Make your passwords complex (a mix of letters and numbers) and change them regularly. Never share PINs or passwords, even if someone claims to be calling from your bank or other institution. Always shred mail and documents with personal information before throwing them out.
If you have been defrauded due to someone’s negligence, contact the personal injury attorneys at Flaxman Law Group for a free consultation. Our law firm has offices in Hollywood, Homestead, and Homestead and we are proud to serve all of South Florida.