Identity theft. You’re hearing the words more and more, on TV and especially online. And there’s good reason. Identity theft is among the largest growing crimes in the world, and it costs consumers millions per year. Here are some facts about identity theft and how you can prevent it from happening to you.
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Identity Theft Statistics
Here are some eye-popping stats about ID theft.
- There were 10 million victims of identity theft in 2008 in the United States (Javelin Strategy and Research, 2009)
- 1 in every 10 U.S. consumers has already been victimized by identity theft
- 1.6 million households experienced fraud not related to credit cards (i.e. their bank accounts or debit cards were compromised) (U.S. Department of Justice, 2005)
- Those households with incomes higher than $70,000 were twice as likely to experience identity theft than those with salaries under $50,000 (U.S. DOJ, 2005)
- 38-48% discover someone has stolen their identity within three months, while 9-18% of victims don’t learn that their identity has been stolen for four or more years (Identity Theft Resource Center Aftermath Study, 2004)
- 50.2 million Americans were using a credit monitoring service as of September 2008 (Javelin Strategy and Research, 2009)
- It can take up to 5,840 hours (the equivalent of working a full-time job for two years) to correct the damage from ID theft, depending on the severity of the case (ITRC Aftermath Study, 2004)
- The average victim spends 330 hours repairing the damage (ITRC Aftermath Study, 2004)
Now that you know why identity theft is so dangerous, here’s how you can help to prevent it.
ID Theft Prevention
Here are the most effective ways for you to avoid becoming a victim.
- Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them
- Protect your Social Security number and avoid carrying your Social Security card in your wallet or write your social security number on a check
- Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the internet unless you know who you are dealing with
- Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type in a web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to-date
- Don’t use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother’s maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number
- Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your house
Knowing what I do about identity theft, I went ahead and signed up for ID theft protection. For around $10 per month, I don’t have to worry about becoming a victim. The program monitors my credit reports for any unusual activity, and I’ll also be provided with a dedicated professional to work my case in the event my identity is ever compromised. I don’t have 330 hours to spend repairing the damage done by an ID thief, do you?