There are good reasons why you see TV commercials and hear expert opinions on identity theft and how to address it. If you’ve ever thought about whether you should take action to check the security of your own identity, you might wonder just how common is identity theft?
Most people really don’t understand how common identity theft is or just how far and wide it can reach. The scary part is you could become a victim of identity theft but not even realize it for years because some instances of this crime are very subtle and don’t always show until you run into certain situations.
What Are the Common Kinds of Identity Theft?
How common is identity theft beyond financial theft? Having financial data compromised or stolen such as credit card numbers or personal checking account numbers usually is what most people think of when they think of identity theft.
This is because when data breaches are mentioned in the news, they usually involve banks or retail chains where financial information is stored. While financial identity theft may be the most commonly heard of identity theft, there are several others that do happen.
Another kind of identity theft is Social Security theft where your SSN is stolen. Sometimes this is tied to financial identity theft since your SSN is often used to apply for a job, credit card or new bank account.
But some thieves will use it to commit tax fraud or evasion, or even other forms of fraud which is why you’re often encouraged to guard your SSN with your life. But it isn’t just your SSN you should protect; there are other personally identifiable information documents that could be compromised.
Your driver’s license can also be a tool identity thieves use, not only to use for fraud or opening accounts in your name but also for committing regular crimes and covering their tracks.
Because your driver’s license number and the plastic card itself can be just as easily compromised and used as a credit card, you should always notify law enforcement as soon as you realize it’s missing or stolen, or if you suspect someone used your number.
You also should watch out for insurance and medical identity theft because sometimes thieves can get a hold of your medical information and use that to get cheaper insurance policies or even certain prescriptions or treatments in your name. This kind of identity theft can also be the hardest to resolve.
How to Prevent Identity Theft
The next question after “how common is identity theft?” is “what can I do to prevent it?” There are many methods you should use to prevent identity theft, including the following:
1. Make sure that all printed documents containing financial information are shredded before throwing them away.
While most identity thieves use newer technology to steal information in the cyber world, dumpster diving is still around and still used to find useful information for compromising identities. Always make sure documents are destroyed before putting them in the trash.
2. Use advanced cybersecurity tools while connected to the Internet.
It’s no secret that identity thieves use the Internet to get information from unsuspecting victims, but how do they do that? It’s not just hacking websites and databases, but also getting into private and public networks or using viruses or trojans to get into computers or mobile devices.
Using good virus scanners and email filters is a start, but you should also be using encryption tools such as VPNs and data protection services to protect your connection, especially on a public wi-fi network to prevent data from being intercepted.
3. Be mindful of where and how you use your credit cards.
You should be careful about where you swipe your credit card or insert the chip as some thieves do use skimmers to try and steal its information. Some identity theft experts even suggest using additional RFID protection in your wallet to make sure you’re protected against scanners that may intercept data off of RFID chips.
How to Resolve Identity Theft
If you’ve become a victim of identity theft, you might fear it’s too late to act, but you still have options. These are steps you should take immediately:
1. Notify your bank, credit card provider, DMV, police department, Social Security Administration, and all other relevant agencies if your credit card, SSN, driver’s license or other documents are lost, stolen or compromised.
2. File all pertinent identity theft reports and if necessary, put a freeze on your credit with all three credit bureaus.
3. If you need to dispute any purchases made in your name, new accounts opened without your consent or illegal use of your ID, you’ll likely need to gather up evidence of your claim and it could entail a legal battle. But the sooner you take this step, the easier it will be.
While resolving a case of identity theft can be hard, if you signup with an identity protection provider, you’ll have a team of experts who can help prevent identity theft and act quickly to resolve it if they suspect you’re a victim.
They’ll notify you instantly if they see activity that looks suspicious, and they’ll help you act quickly to stop it if it wasn’t you. Reputable identity theft protection companies will know what steps to take when and often will have legal experts there to guide you in situations where you may need to produce evidence or resolve transactions.
Identity theft is scary and happens to many people, but using safeguards and a trustworthy identity protection company can help ensure you’re protected against its greatest dangers.