FBI: Best protection against identity theft is you


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A number of high-profile breaches of private information are raising concerns around the country: Equifax, Yahoo and the breach of Spectrum Health patient information that Target 8 revealed Thursday.

So what do you do if your information gets out? Target 8 asked an FBI agent.

“The biggest thing is you want to monitor your financial statements,” said Ken Lavictoire, the supervisory senior resident agent at the FBI’s office in Grand Rapids.

That means bank accounts, credit card statements and your mail.

“They want to get money,” Lavictoire said of identity thieves. “Either access your funds directly and transfer them to someone else or open accounts and buy goods and send them to a third party. Fortunately for us in today’s world, the credit card companies and the banks are very adept at their own security systems.”

That allows banks and credit card companies to shut down fraudulent activity quickly, but not always. Your best protection, Lavictoire says, is you.

“You know your finances better than anyone else,” he said. “I know my finances better than anyone else. In today’s automatized world, my bills are paid automatically, my paycheck comes in automatically. Sometimes I forget to actually look at my bank account, but you need to do that.”

He says you need to look at all of your mail.

“You get a lot of mail and a lot of it is junk mail, but what these individuals will often do is set up accounts in your name so you might get some strange pieces of mail that you think is junk mail and maybe just throw it away, but in actuality it’s a bill of like a credit card that you never created because it wasn’t you, it was someone else,” he explained.

Receiving a package that you didn’t order could also be an indicator that your information has been compromised.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that most people — like the couple who contacted Target 8 about the used fax machine they bought that was storing patient information — don’t want to commit a felony.

“You still have to have the intent to do this illegal activity,” Lavictoire pointed out.

Another good reminder is that government agencies don’t call to you get personal information. No one from a legitimate agency will demand such information over the phone or email.

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Resources:

IdentityTheft.gov

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center

Federal Trade Commission

AnnualCreditReport.com