Just this Monday, Home Depot confirmed that its payment security systems had been hacked- another major data breach in a recent string. Last year's high profile security breach of Target resulted in some 40 million payment card numbers being stolen and 70 million other pieces of customer data becoming compromised.
Identity thieves use that personal information to commit fraud- government benefit fraud, credit card fraud, bank fraud, loan fraud, etc.- putting not only your private information, but your money at risk.
In an increasingly digital and mobile world, the rate of identity theft and fraud is higher than ever. According to a report released by Javelin Strategy and Research earlier this year, there were 13.1 million identity fraud victims in 2013, an increase of 500,000 since 2012.
It takes the average victim an estimated $500 and 30 hours to resolve each identity theft crime. Save your time and money by protecting yourself with basic identity theft prevention steps. The more you know about identity theft, the less likely you are to become another victim.
Practical Steps For Avoiding Identity Theft
Don't over share. Don't give out any more information than you have to- be it on the internet on social media or via email, on the phone, or in documents. Take proper precautions even in your own home. Consider this, 32% of identity theft victims discovered a family member or relative was responsible for stealing their identity. Protect important identifying information like your social security number, your billing address, and important documents like your passport and birth certificate that can be used to open up fraudulent accounts or access other sensitive information.
- Trim your trash. Before throwing away papers chock full of sensitive, identifying information like receipts, bank statements, returned checks, and credit card offers, throw them through a paper shredder or destroy them yourself.
- Change your passwords. Not only should passwords and pins be difficult to guess- no birthdays or generic "1234" or "0000" passwords- they should also be changed frequently for an added measure of security.
- Monitor your financial life. Stay on top of your monthly credit card bills, bank statements, and your credit report. The more closely and frequently you monitor your accounts, the sooner you'll be able to spot and put and end to any signs of fraud.
Practical Steps for Dealing With Identity Theft
- Contact your bank, credit, and appropriate government agencies. If you find yourself a victim of identity fraud, take action immediately by calling the appropriate agencies and putting a stop to any ongoing theft.
- Report fraudulent activity to the Federal Trade Commission.
- File a police report.
- Close bank and credit accounts and have new cards and pins issued.
- Stop all checks.
- Contact all three credit agencies.
- Keep a log. Write down all the institutions you speak with including names and dates and save any relevant paperwork so you have a complete record of your case.
- Follow-Up. Follow up with all agencies and institutions to make sure your matter is resolved favorably. Continue to monitor your credit reports and bank accounts to ensure that no new fraud arises. The good news is, most cases of identity theft can be resolved if they are caught early on.