Keeping your personal information secure is a daunting but inescapable task. But even if you take every precaution, thieves can get access to your accounts and personal information and wreak havoc on your life. 

How can you protect yourself from identity theft in Florida? And if you are a victim, who should you report it to and how? 

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft refers to someone stealing your personal information, like your Social Security number, and using it to create new accounts, apply for loans, make purchases, lease cars or residences, and even obtain employment. 

Victims of identity theft may lose thousands of dollars before ever suspecting a thing, and the damage can be devastating and last for years. Some of the most common ways that thieves steal your data are as follows:

  • Data breach: Unauthorized access to a company’s or an organization’s data. Thieves may steal names, Social Security numbers, and credit card numbers. 
  • Unsafe browsing: Sharing information with an unsafe website or a website that has been hit by hackers. 
  • Dark web marketplaces: Stolen personal information may wind up on the “dark web”  (a hidden network of websites that aren’t accessible by normal browsers) where it can be sold to others with bad intentions. 
  • Malware attack: Malicious software designed to steal your data or spy on your computer activity without your knowledge.
  • Credit card theft: Stolen credit cards or credit card numbers can be used to make fraudulent purchases. This can happen through physical theft of cards, data breaches, credit card skimmers, and online retail accounts where card information is stored. 
  • Mail theft: Thieves steal bank and credit card statements and other personal information right from your mailbox or from your trash. 
  • Phishing and spam attacks: Scammers use email or text messages to steal your sensitive information. Fraudulent emails may appear to be from a reputable source, and may ask you to provide personal information like bank account or credit card numbers. 
  • Wi-Fi hacking: Hackers can invade your computer or phone while you’re using your phone or computer on a public network, such as at an airport or in a coffee shop. 
  • Mobile phone theft: Thieves physically steal and unlock your phone in order to access the personal information that it contains.
  • Credit card skimming: Skimming devices are placed over a card reader at an ATM or gas pump, allowing thieves to read the information from the magnetic strip, and then store it or transmit it allowing the criminals to use the card to make fraudulent purchases. 

How Can I Report Identity Theft in Florida?

There are several steps you’ll need to take if you suspect you’ve been a victim of identity theft in Florida. According to the Florida Office of the Attorney General, you’ll need to report the incident to several organizations or entities. 

  • Report the incident to the fraud department of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). Ask them to place a fraud alert on your credit report, and order copies of your reports so you can review them. Request a victim’s statement that asks creditors to contact you before opening new accounts or making changes to any of your existing accounts. 
  • Contact the fraud department of each of your affected creditors (credit cards, utilities, cable TV service, etc.) even if that account has not been tampered with. Close the accounts that have been compromised, and ask to have an alert placed on any accounts that are left open. Be sure to follow up in writing. You can use an Identity Theft Affidavit form provided by the Federal Trade Commission at 
  • Contact your bank or financial institution. If checks have been stolen, stop payment on them immediately. Also place a stop payment on any outstanding checks that you are unsure about. 

Report the incident to local law enforcement. Under Florida law, your report may be filed in the location in which the offense occurred or the city or county in which you reside. The report should include copies of debt collection letters, credit reports, and your Identity Theft Affidavit. Be sure to get a copy of the completed police report. 

What Are the Signs of Identity Theft?

There are some signs that can tip you off that you’ve been a victim of identity theft. First, be sure to review your credit reports at least once per year. Watch for accounts that you don’t remember opening or an inexplicable drop in your credit score, which would be a sign that something is seriously wrong. 

Other signs of identity theft include:

  • Failure to receive important mail like bills or checks
  • Receiving bills for items that you didn’t purchase
  • Receiving credit card bills for accounts that you did not open
  • You have an excellent credit rating but are denied credit
  • Noticing unauthorized bank transactions or withdrawals
  • Receiving a notice from a business (e.g., a retailer) that your personal information may have been compromised in a large scale breach
  • Denial of your electronic tax filing
  • Emails indicating unauthorized account access
  • Receiving a bill or an explanation of benefits from your health insurance company for care that you didn’t receive

How Can I Protect Myself from Identity Theft?

Here are a few ways to protect yourself from identity theft: 

  • Read your credit card and bank statements carefully and often.
  • Know your payment due dates. If a bill doesn't show up when you expect it, look into it.
  • Read the statements from your health insurance plan. Make sure the claims paid match the care you received.
  • Shred any documents with personal and financial information.
  • Review each of your three credit reports at least once a year to check for fraudulent accounts and activity.

How Can an Agent Help Me Protect Myself from Identity Theft?

A Florida independent insurance agent can help you assess your need for identity theft protection, or Florida cybercrime insurance, from your personal insurance carrier. 

Personal cybercrime insurance is available, and it can protect you from certain types of cyberattacks or if you are a victim of some type of a cybercrime. It may help you pay for the costs of recovering from a cybercrime as well. 

In addition to identity theft, cybercrime insurance in Florida might cover:

  • Ransomware attacks and cyber extortion
  • Malware attacks
  • Phishing scams 
  • Attacks that compromise your bank account(s)
  • Cyber bullying or Internet stalking

Cybercrime insurance may be sold as a stand-alone policy, but for individuals it is more often sold as part of a package or an endorsement to a Florida homeowners insurance policy. Not all home insurance policies or companies cover cybercrime. You’ll need to discuss your coverage with an independent insurance agent

Article Reviewed by | Paul Martin

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