You'd think with all the media attention regarding data breaches, hackers and identity theft, that consumers would be more focused on their privacy and how to protect their information from prying eyes. Surprisingly, almost 70% of the people are clueless about how a criminal might have got a hold of their personal information.
We all have a lot going on in our lives, and this is exactly how identity thieves like us. Ever lurking, these criminals are counting on us being too busy to give any thought to who we are sharing our information to. These people are always there, and just waiting for us to make mistakes.
The startling truth is that most victims of an identity theft crime, about 68 percent, don't know how their information was obtained, and 92 percent of victims have no idea who stole their information. A further 45 percent of identity theft victims don't realize they are a victim until they hear from their financial institution. There are more than 16 million victims of identity theft each year.
IdentityForce created a very informative info-graphic (nice job IdentityForce!) that shows the public are essentially sitting ducks, just waiting to be picked off by identity thieves.
What did you do to expose your information? Consider the following:
- Got married
- Gave too much info away on social media
- Responded to a fraudulent text, message, or email
Additionally, major life events put you at greater risk of becoming a victim, such as having a baby or getting a new job.
When most of us consider identity theft, we usually think immediately of credit card fraud, but there is much more to it than that. Though credit card fraud is a common type of identity theft, these thieves can use the information they have obtained to do the following:
- Open up a new bank account or credit card…and make changes to your billing address, leaving you none the wiser
- Take out a large loan, such as a mortgage or vehicle loan, and never pay the loan off
- File a fraudulent tax return, and taking the money that comes from it
If you find yourself to be a victim of identity theft, you could be dealing with the aftermath for years to come, and could struggle to clear your name and repair your credit score.
Fortunately, there are several ways that you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft. Some of this includes:
- Only give out your Social Security number when it is absolutely necessary
- Do not allow mail to sit in a mailbox
- Don't respond to suspicious requests for personal information
- Only create complex passwords for online accounts
Here's how to be part of the 30% of informed, alert, aware and cyber smart consumers: Take the "Identity Theft Risk Quiz" here: https://www.identityforce.com/resources/quiz To further protect yourself, sign up for an identity theft service, today.
Robert Siciliano CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock'em dead in this identity theft prevention video.