Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the U.S. While you can’t completely avoid falling victim to ID theft, you can protect yourself and minimize your risk by first educating yourself on this crime. Here are some identity theft stats to help you understand your risks and how to protect yourself.
What are the most common kinds of identity theft?
- Obtaining a loan in someone else’s name
- Getting a job and working in someone else’s name
- Opening a bank account in someone else’s name or using someone else’s bank account to write checks
- Opening a cable, phone or utility account in someone else’s name
- Using and/or opening a credit card in someone else’s name
Who is victimized by identity theft?
- An estimated 11.7 million individuals fell victim to identity theft over a two-year period (in 2008)
- 6.2 million victims (3% of all persons age 16 or older) had an existing credit card account fraudulently used
- Households with incomes over $70,000 are twice as likely to be victimized
- Smartphone users experience greater incidence of fraud
- 43% of victims know their perpetrators (with child id theft, the most common perpetrator is one of the child’s parents)
What does it take to repair ID theft?
- About 42% of victims spend one day or less working to repair the problems; but 3% continue to experience problems for more than 6 months after discovering it.
- The average dollar amount lost per household is actually on the decline over the past decade – thanks to more vigilant consumer behavior and account/credit monitoring
How is an ID stolen?
In a 2009 Javelin Strategy and Research Study,
- Almost half of ID theft was done with stolen wallets/purses and actual physical paperwork
- Identity theft online made up 11% of thefts
- 38% of victims had their debit or credit card numbers stolen
- 37% of victims had their Social Security number stolen
- 36% of victims had their name and phone number stolen
- 24% of victims had their financial account numbers stolen
- 59% of new account ID fraud was through opening a new credit card (or store credit card) account
How can I protect myself from ID theft?
- Only share your personal info (Social Security number, Driver’s License number, etc.) and financial/credit account info when absolutely necessary
- Pay attention to when bills/account statements should arrive; if they are more than a few days late, contact the bank or credit/utility company and confirm that no changes have been made to your account – a thief could’ve changed your address
- Pick up mail promptly each day; drop outgoing sensitive mail at the post office; put holds on your mail during vacations
- Put complicated passwords on your smartphone, credit card, bank and phone accounts.
- Don’t carry your Social Security card.
- Only carry the credit cards that you need each day.
- Don’t give out personal information over the phone, through the mail or online unless you know who you are dealing with.
- Lock up important documents at home, especially if you employ outside help, have roommates or having guests or work performed in your home by others.
- Keep your computer’s anti-virus software up-to-date.
Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) every year, reviewing it carefully every time.