POCATELLO, Idaho - Identity theft is quickly becoming a major problem. In fact, half of Americans had their personal information stolen last year. It's becoming a highly unsolved felony, not only because it's often online but because it's hard to catch those who do it. All it takes is knowing your full name and date of birth, and criminals build from there.
But there are some simple ways to make your personal data more secure. Connections Credit Union, in Pocatello, hosted a shredding event Friday, having hosted one annually for the past seven years. While they had a bouncy castle for the kids while the adults took care of their documents, parents should know their kids could be at risk, as well.
"Your information is sold to someone overseas and it's extremely difficult to prosecute those cases," said Dianne Brush, community services specialist for the Pocatello Police Department.
It's just one of many problems with identity theft and fraud cases. But that's why the Connections Credit Union and the Police Department have teamed up to try to prevent it from happening to you.
"Don't ever provide your name, date of birth or Social Security number to anyone unless you initiated the contact," said Brush.
Over the phone is a major way thieves get your information, usually through incoming calls. To help yourself, you can tell the caller you're going to hang up and call the number you have for the company they say they represent. If they have a problem with that, it's a definite warning.
"If the person you're talking to on the phone is being very aggressive to get you to give that information," said Jamie Simmons, vice president of operations east for Connections Credit Union, "that should be a red flag for you to say, 'No, I'm not going to do this.'"
While that may seem like trouble, in the end it is much easier than being too relaxed with your information. Some people find out their identity has been stolen after they apply for their first-ever loan. The credit institution tells them there are already multiple other loans, all in default and all in their name.
Simmons said the process to get that information fixed on your credit report is lengthy, exhausting and very difficult if you don't subscribe to some type of identity protection program.
"Unfortunately that is a big step, and it takes quite a while to see those corrections come on a credit report," Simmons said.
Shredding and putting documents in the recycling bin may not be enough because someone could go through the scraps and put the pieces together. The best way is to keep the shreds separate by putting one half in one week's recycling, the next in another week's or putting them in separate bins.
If you missed Friday's shredding day, there will be another shredding event June 20, from 1 - 3 p.m. at the Bank of Idaho, Tuscany Hills branch, 2300 Via Caporatti in Pocatello.