Apr. 07, 2017

It is a sobering fact to learn that more than 10 million Americans annually have their personal information stolen by identity thieves. That is why it is more important than ever for individuals to safeguard their personal information.

Identity theft can devastate a person’s finances and credit rating, which can impact one’s ability to get a loan, purchase a car or even get a job. Even after people discover they have been the victim of this insidious crime, they still have to undergo a maze of paperwork, reach out to countless companies they have done business with and dedicate more of their finances to “correcting the record” and restoring their good name.

April is “Child ID Theft Awareness Month,” which brings attention to this growing trend when it comes to identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission has noted that identity thieves deliberately capture the Social Security number of a child in order to obtain employment; apply for government benefits, car loans and mortgages; and open new accounts. Stealing the identity of children is a growing trend because no one thinks to check the credit records of a child until he or she is old enough to apply for a credit card, buy a car or apply for a college loan. Unfortunately, by that point a great amount of damage has likely already been done.

I encourage everyone to please keep their child’s Social Security information private and to periodically run a credit check in their child’s name to make sure their information has not somehow been stolen and misused.

Unfortunately, as much as law enforcement officials work to stop these crimes, the first line of defense rests with you. I urge all residents to be vigilant in checking their credit reports and to be more guarded about to whom they are releasing their personal information.

One of the best precautions a person can take is to shred any documents with personal information, including birth dates, Social Security numbers and bank account numbers. To make it easier for individuals to dispose of such documents, I am hosting a shredding event along with Sen. Pat Browne and Lower Macungie Township on Saturday, May 6, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside my district office at the Lower Macungie Township Administration Building parking lot, 3400 Brookside Road in Macungie. The service is free and open to residents of the 134th District. Everyone may bring up to four boxes or bags of documents. However, this event is for residents only. No businesses, please.

If you do become a victim of identity theft, remember to act quickly. Contact the fraud department of your creditors, contact your financial institution(s), report the theft to law enforcement, and file complaints with the state attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission right away. For more information, go to consumer.ftc.gov.