How to protect yourself from identity theft

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - A former identity thief shared his secrets. Kevin Hawke explained how he stole people's identities and maxed out their credit cards.

"A lot of people that have access to information are corruptible, and you can pay them for the information," he said.

For example, corrupt county government or Department of Motor Vehicles workers can get paid to leak personal data, he added. 

RELATED: Crime Confessions: How I stole your credit card

Hawke described a lucrative underworld to ring the alarm.

You need to protect your credit cards and personal profile: Name, Address, Social Security Number.  

Fighting Credit Card Fraud
Check your credit card and bank transactions 'almost daily,' according to Hawke. 

1. Look for suspicious, unauthorized charges on your financial statements. 
2. Contact your financial institution immediately about fraudulent charges. 

Both VISA and Mastercard have a "zero-liability" policy. You will be reimbursed for unauthorized charges. 

VISA
"If the unauthorized transaction involves your debit card or account, Visa's Zero Liability Policy requires issuers to replace any funds taken from your account as the result of an unauthorized debit transaction within 5 business days of notification." 

Mastercard 
"As a Mastercard cardholder, Zero Liability applies to your purchases made in the store, over the telephone, online, or via a mobile device and ATM transactions. As a cardholder, you will not be held responsible for unauthorized transactions if: 1.You have used reasonable care in protecting your card from loss or theft; and 2. You promptly reported loss or theft to your financial institution."

Identity Monitoring
Hawke also advised buying an identity theft protection plan like LifeLock. The plan can quickly alert you to suspicious purchases and unauthorized credit lines.

Free Credit Report 
Check your credit report to make sure there are no mistakes. The Federal Trade Commission states each person is entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from the three nationwide credit reporting companies: TransUnion, Equifax, Experian. 

"Order online from annualcreditreport.com, the only authorized website for free credit reports, or call 1-877-322-8228. You will need to provide your name, address, social security umber, and date of birth to verify your identity." 

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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