Identity Theft – Protect Yourself Against This Growing Problem

As consumers, we can’t ignore the fact that identity theft has become a serious issue in the U.S. According to a major study, it is among the fastest growing crimes in the country, with more than 12 million consumers victimized by identity theft in 2012. This equates to on average approximately 1 victim every 3 seconds….and the numbers are climbing.

By now we've all read an article about identity theft or heard the phrase uttered on the news and thought

“Well, it won’t happen to me”.

This is exactly the type of attitude that identity thieves hope for while they plot to steal your personal information and run up as much debt as possible using your identity. We all hope that certain things “can’t” or “won’t” happen to us regarding any potentially bad social, medical or financial situation. The truth of the matter is that it can happen to anyone at anytime.

How Do I Know If I'm At Risk?


Do you ever:

Use a computer to access any online social, business or financial information?
Use an ATM Machine?
Use a smartphone?
Use a credit card or a debit card?
Have a bank account of any kind?
Receive or pay any bills on a monthly/quarterly/annual basis through the mail or electronically?

If you've answered “yes” to at least one of these questions, as most of us would, you may consider yourself a worthy candidate for identity theft.

You don’t need to be wealthy or famous. You don’t need to own any real estate, drive an expensive car or have a high paying job. Identity thieves simply want to grab your personal information and use it as quickly as they can, for as long as they can, to steal from you. If they acquire your social security number, they may use it to file a false tax return and receive a refund check from the IRS before you've even had a chance to file your own legitimate tax return. The list of potential fraud goes on and on.

How Can Identity Thieves Get My Personal Information?

Stealing a wallet or purse.
Online hacking of credit card or other data banks.
Stealing credit/debit information through ATM's.
Family/Co-workers opening accounts using information readily obtained.
Going through your trash or swiping from your mailbox.

There are many other ways that your information can be compromised.  The main idea that needs to be conveyed here is being cautious when it comes to carrying, assigning or even destroying anything that contains personal information.

How Do I Further Protect Myself Against Identity Theft?

While most of us take some precautions when it comes to information safekeeping, you can further protect yourself against identity theft by following these basic rules:

Never carry your social security card in your purse or wallet.
Avoid using public networks or shared computers to access any websites that contain detailed personal or financial information (bank, credit card, investment, social security, etc.).
Before filling out information or buying anything from an online site or store, verify their authenticity and make sure they use a secure setting.
Shred all documents that may contain personal information.
Share personal information sparingly and only with those that you trust.

In addition to taking these steps, the use of a credit report monitoring service may help alert you to suspicious activity in your credit report. A high quality credit monitoring service will alert you of activity through e-mail, phone or mobile device. Plus, identity theft protection offers a powerful set of tools, further supplemented with professional ID theft guidance, and support to help you correct any issues resulting from certain activity or inquiries made on your credit.

By being vigilant and proactive, you can be sure that you’re taking the proper steps to protecting your identity and minimizing your risk of identity theft.