Identity theft involves the unauthorized use or attempted use of existing credit cards or accounts, as well as the misuse of personal information to obtain new accounts, get loans or commit other crimes.

Roughly 7 percent of all American households—nearly 9 million homes nationwide— have experienced an incident of identity theft, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

PLAY IT SAFE

To help keep your information safe, check monthly statements for credit cards, bank and brokerage accounts carefully, and be sure to get a free annual credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Contact each by phone, mail or online.

You should also monitor your email, social networking accounts and phone bills, as thieves can “piggyback” on your plans.

If you notice something strange when reviewing your credit report or your financial statements—even a charge for just a small amount—call the issuing financial institution immediately and report it. Identity thieves test, or “phish,” stolen account numbers by running a small charge or debit.

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EMAIL AND PHONE PHISHING

Email phishing is another common scam. Identity thieves often appear to come from a well-known organization, and ask for your personal information—such as a credit card number, Social Security number, account number, user name or password.

In order for internet criminals to successfully obtain your personal information, they will almost always tell you to click a link that either downloads malware or a virus onto your computer or takes you to a different site where your personal information is requested. The emails often have forged or unsecure links and express a sense of urgency or negative consequences if you don’t take action.

Phone phishing, or telemarketing scams, operate much the same way. Identity thieves call and often use exaggerated or fake prizes or services as bait. The goal is to get people to act on impulse and divulge personal or account information rather than take the time to analyze the situation.

PROTECTING YOUR DATA

All mail and other documents with account numbers or other personal data should be securely discarded or shredded. One of the best ways to protect yourself from “dumpster diving” and mail fraud is to sign up for e-delivery of all your financial information. To reduce or even eliminate nuisance offers, you can opt out of the lists aggregated by credit bureaus, which then sell your name to lenders.

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Also, register your home and mobile phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry.

As for your social media accounts, vigilance is key. The more information you share with the world, the easier you make it for thieves to find that information. Check your privacy controls, and keep checking, as they change often. Also check the information your children are sharing online and the configuration of any file-sharing software they’ve installed. They are less likely to be aware of privacy concerns and the consequences of divulging sensitive information.

UBS Financial Services Inc., its affiliates and its employees do not provide tax or legal advice. Clients should contact their personal tax and/or legal advisors regarding their particular situation. This article has been written and provided by UBS Financial Services Inc. for use by its Financial Advisors. Jesse Rodriquez is a Financial Advisor with UBS Financial Services Inc. at 888 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660. UBS Financial Services Inc. Financial Advisors engaged Worth to feature this article. The strategies and/or investments referenced may not be suitable for all investors. UBS Financial Services Inc., its affiliates and its employees are not in the business of providing tax or legal advice. Clients should seek advice based on their particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor. As a firm providing wealth management services to clients, UBS Financial Services, Inc. is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as an investment adviser and a broker-dealer, offering both investment advisory and brokerage services. Advisory services and brokerage services are separate and distinct, differ in material ways and are governed by different laws and separate contracts. It is important that you carefully read the agreements and disclosures UBS provides to you about the products or services offered. For more information, please visit our website at ubs.com/workingwithus. © UBS 2016. All rights reserved. UBS Financial Services Inc. is a subsidiary of UBS AG. Member FINRA/SIPC. D-UBS-AC8C744C.

This article was originally published in the April/May 2016 issue of Worth.