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Feature Articles: Financial Information & Tips


Paper shredderProtecting your identity will help protect your financial future


“In our modern world, with click-of-a-mouse speed, identity theft is a growing threat to you personally and financially,” says Doug Scotten, family financial education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.


The United States Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) includes three types of incidents that are considered identity theft. The incidents include the unauthorized use or attempted use of an existing account, the unauthorized use or attempted use of personal information to open a new account, and misuse of personal information for fraudulent purposes. BJS data indicates in 2012, 16.6 million people reported being victims of identity theft in the United States. The number of identity thefts rose 33 percent from 2005 to 2010.


The top five things identity thieves are looking for are as follows:


  • Social Security Number
  • Date of birth
  • Your full legal name
  • Account numbers (bank and credit card account numbers)
  • Online passwords


Once an identity thief has stolen your information, the threat to your personal life and personal finances begins. The U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Statistics Identity Theft Reported by Households, 2005–2010 (Langton, 2011) references the following uses of stolen information:


  • 54 percent to access existing credit card accounts
  • 25.6 percent to access other existing accounts
  • 9 percent to access personal information
  • 11.4 percent used to access multiple types of information


Imagine the damage this can do to you both personally and financially.


If you believe your identity has been stolen or compromised, take the following steps:


  1. Immediately request a fraud alert from the three major credit bureaus – TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. The fraud alert will be placed on your credit line and will stay on your credit report for 90 days.
  2. Request your credit report from the credit bureaus. You can obtain this by visiting or telephoning 877-322-8228. This will give you the opportunity to review your report to see if your accounts have been tampered with or new accounts have been opened.
  3. Create an Identity Theft Report. To create this report, submit a report to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Document details of the theft and print the document, which will serve as an Identity Theft Affidavit. Take the Identity Theft Affidavit to your local law enforcement agency and file a police report. Obtain a copy of the police report or police report number. The Identity Theft Affidavit and police report make up the Identity Theft Report. Once complete, submit the Identity Theft Report to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.


There are other forms of identity theft a person should be aware of as well. Medical identity theft occurs when your name or insurance number is used to seek medical treatment, obtain prescription drugs, or file bogus claims with your insurance provider. Identity thieves are also targeting children's Social Security Numbers to apply for credit cards, loans, benefits, etc. Last, thieves are also committing tax related identity theft by filing a tax return under a stolen identity.


If you fall victim to identity theft or believe your identity has been compromised, act fast. It takes time and diligence to resolve the problem. Continue to monitor your credit report and accounts and change all of your passwords. Keep in contact with involved agencies and your creditors until the situation is resolved.


For more information on issues related to individual and family finances, contact Doug Scotten at 417-448-2560 or


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Last update: Thursday, April 16, 2015