COLORADO, USA — It’s not a matter of if, but when you become a victim of identity theft.

That's according to Ralph Gagliardi, the agent in charge of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) ID Theft, Fraud and Cyber Crimes unit.

The reality is, there are people out there looking to use your name to get money, Gagliardi said.

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Below are some of the most prominent scams, according to CBI, and Gagliardi's pro tips to protect yourself.

Impostor Scams: The most popular technique for fraudsters 

About 20% of the more than 37,000 reports of fraud in Colorado last year were because of impostor scams, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Those scams typically involve people claiming to be with the government, a relative in distress, a love interest or a cable company.

Pro Tip: Anytime you get a call from a stranger, NEVER give out your information.

"When that question comes up, to give them information, your name, date of birth, social security number and credit card, don’t do it. Ever, ever, ever!" Gagliardi said. 

Data Breaches

There were billions affected by data breaches in 2018 alone. There are millions and millions of social security numbers on the dark web.

Pro Tip 1: Watch what’s in your mailboxes and what you put in your trash. Criminals may find a social security number online — and then go directly to that person’s house.

"With the mail you get and sometimes the trash you throw away, they’re able to use that and put together a portfolio of who you are, and they’ll work on that and build a financial product that gets them access to cash," Gagliardi said.

Pro Tip 2: If your social security number or any information has been compromised in a data breach, or even if you just want to be cautious, freeze your credit. It’s free in Colorado.

"You can freeze your credit at all three agencies," Gagliardi said. "Then, when you need to go buy something, like a new car or something like that, you’re going to know. It takes about 5-10 minutes to unfreeze it, do your transaction, then freeze it again.”

Pro Tip 3: If you’re not sure whether your social security number has been breached, don't try to look it up on your own.

“A private company can be hired to look," Gagliardi said. "Never try and do it yourself. [It’s] very dangerous [and can] expose the attempt to other issues if you don't know what you're doing.”

Lost and Found

There are “frequent” situations where people leave their purse somewhere and a thief takes it. What makes it worse is if your social security card was inside. 

Pro Tip: Avoid this situation by leaving that card at home.

“Keep that somewhere safe at home locked up," Gagliardi said. "Don’t carry it in your purse, wallet or in your car. Because it can get stolen and used by bad guys."

Social Media

Putting a lot of information on social media is bad news. Make sure your accounts are private.

Pro Tip: If they’re not private, don’t post about going out of town. Thieves have been known to hit houses they found out were unoccupied by looking at social media.

"They’re using that information for several reasons, but they can also use that to answer questions when they’re pretending to be you, whether they’re calling into a TV service or a bank," Gagliardi said. "Your information is out there. And if you put too much, bad guys are out there, and they’re going to use that against you.”

When the worst happens

If you do become a victim of fraud, let authorities know immediately. CBI may be able to help you get your money back, and it gives them a better idea of who's targeting our community and how.

Call the CBI 24-Hour Identity and Fraud Hotline at 1-855-443-3489.

ID Theft Data from FTC

> Click/tap here for more info about identity theft and how to protect yourself

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