Identity theft continues to be a problem in the US. In 2018, 14.4 million people were victims of identity theft. That’s 4 out of every 100 people. This number was down from 2017 (16.7 million) but the toll was heavier: out-of-pocket fraud costs more than doubled from 2016 to 2018 to the tune of $1.7 billion. And this is just the financial aspect. To recover your stolen identity with credit card companies and government agencies can take months or years to get straightened out.
Identity theft and scams tend to spike during times of crisis such as COVID-19. Your data that was compromised years ago through a breach such as the Marriott or Target attack, could be used today to file unemployment claims, collect stimulus payments, apply for small business loans, and other lines of credit. The most coveted items that thieves want are social security numbers, birthdates, and bank account/routing numbers.
Find out what information of yours is being sold on the dark web.
There are ways to prevent your identity from being stolen. Here are seven recommendations that can help keep your identity safe.
- Monitor your credit reports regularly. Monitoring often can help quickly identify any possible fraudulent acitivity and respond to it before it damages your credit. Check your credit reports at Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
- Subscribe to a credit or identity theft monitoring service such as LifeLock. These services help monitor and alert you of threats to your identity as well as provide reimbursement of funds stolen, and assist in resolving theft issues.
- Place a security or credit freeze on your credit file so lenders cannot gain access to it. If you feel identity theft may have occurred in your name, you might want to consider a security freeze to avoid any new fraudulent accounts being opened in your name.
- Be extremely cautious when receiving emails, calls or letters. Confirm legitimacy, avoid clicking any links or opening attachments, and never give your personal information over the phone.
- Be cautious about using free Wi-Fi. Many hackers use public places (called watering holes) to set up their own free Wi-Fi to load malware or spyware on your device.
- Don’t overshare on social media. Facebook and LinkedIn can be a treasure trove for finding out personal information. And be sure to manage privacy settings about who can and can’t see your info.
- Close unused accounts. You’ve probably signed up for accounts that you don’t use any longer. If hacked, those places may hold a ton of personal info, especially email account with personal documents.
Identity theft doesn’t have to be a part of your future. By monitoring your credit reports and being careful with your personal identification information (PII), your identity can be better protected.
Find out how we can help keep your information protected.
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