Some Facts About Identity Theft:
• 27.3 million Americans have been victims of identity theft in the last five years, including 9.91 million people or 4.6% of the population in the last year alone.
• Nearly 85% of all victims find out about their identity theft case in a negative manner. Only 15% of victims find out due to a proactive action taken by a business.
• 16% say it was a friend, relative or co-worker who stole their identity.
• The average time spent by victims trying to resolve identity theft issues is about 600 hours, an increase of more than 300% over previous studies.
• Last year’s identity theft losses to businesses and financial institutions totaled $47.6 billion and consumer victims reported $5 billion in out-of-pocket expenses.
• Because this crime is often misclassified, the thieves have just a one in 700 chance of being caught by the federal authorities.
• The emotional impact of identity theft has been found to parallel that of victims of violent crime.
• Roughly half of all adults feel they do not know how to protect themselves against identity theft.
• Children are increasingly becoming victims of identity theft, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.
How You Can Help Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to protect yourself from identity theft.
But there are steps you can take to minimize the chances that your information will
be stolen and used by a thief.
The first part of this publication is organized into checklists you can use to put these ideas into practice. The second part of this booklet will give you steps to take if you are a victim.
It To Yourself: The less information that’s out there, the better!
- Carry only the cards you need in your wallet. It’s a good idea to leave extra credit cards and your Social Security card locked up safely at home.
- Make a copy of all your credit cards, front and back, and keep that list in a safe (locked) place in case your wallet or purse is stolen.
- If your medical insurance card lists your social security number, ask your insurance provider if you can change it to another number. If not, carry the card only when you need it for doctor’s appointments etc.
- If your driver’s license number is your social security number, ask your state if you can choose another number. Many states are starting to allow this.
- When shopping, take your credit card receipts with you and then store them in a safe place at home. Pay attention while your purchases are being rung up to make sure the card information isn’t written down or copied an extra time.
- Don’t let a store clerk write your credit card number or any unnecessary identification information on your check. If she wants to write down your driver’s license number, for example, ask her not to write down the complete number. Ask to speak to a manager if the clerk insists on copying all your information onto your check.
- Don’t print your driver’s license or social security number on your checks.
- When asked for your social security number, always ask if you can provide another number. The more consumers insist on this, the sooner businesses will have to change their policies.
- Don’t use ATM machines from financial institutions you don’t recognize. Theives have used ATMs to gather information from customers about their cards or accounts.
At Work: Don’t let an ID thief catch you sleeping on the job
- Keep your purse locked up at work. Workplace theft is more rampant than most people realize. Ask your employer for a safe place to lock your purse or wallet if none is provided.
- Ask your employer about its security procedures for personnel files. Make sure they are locked and that there is a policy in place to protect theft. Many cases of identity theft have originated at work, and involved coworkers stealing personal data.
- Don’t log onto personal financial accounts from work and don’t set work computers to remember personal passwords automatically. Finally, don’t store personal information in your desk or in work computers.
At Home: Make sure your home is a safe haven
- Thieves can pluck bills or other mail from your mailbox and use that information to commit fraud. To protect yourself, use a locked mailbox if possible to receive mail. (Type “locked mailbox” in an Internet search engine for sources.) Send any sensitive mail from the Post Office or using an official USPS mailbox.
- Never have new checks sent to your home, unless your mailbox is secure. Ask them to be delivered to your bank and pick them up instead.
- Buy an inexpensive shredder to shred any mail or documents with sensitive information.
- Keep track of when your credit card bills normally arrive. If one is missing, contact your lender immediately. Don’t just assume you get to skip a month’s payment!
- Check your credit report at least once a year (see How The New Credit Reporting Law Can Help You later in this booklet for more details). Consider a credit monitoring service if you want to keep close tabs on your credit report. Early detection of fraud can save hours of time and hassle later.
- Each year, you’ll get your benefits statement from the Social Security Administration. Check it carefully for errors as well as possible fraud.
- Keep your personal information in a locked room or filing cabinet at home. This is especially important if you have frequent visitors (including your children’s teenage friends), a housekeeper, or others who may be in your home.