First, let’s figure out what identity theft is. Today, as people talk about identity theft, in most cases, they mean criminal action when a fraudster impersonates someone else by stealing his/her personal data. In this article, you will learn the most striking and sometimes even frightening facts about identity theft.
Identity theft ranks first on the list of Consumer Complaints
14% of all complaints received by Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) in 2013 were identity theft complaints. Out of all reported cases, the most common types of identity theft are:
- Government documents/benefits fraud (34%);
- Credit card fraud (17%);
- Phone/utility fraud (14%);
- Bank fraud (8%).
Theft of identity happens once in two seconds
Since 2013 cases of identity theft have become more frequent. On average, fraud happens every 2 seconds and involves more people than you could think. In 2013, over 2 million consumers’ complaints about identity fraud were received by CSN.
The medical sector is at the greatest risk
In 2014, most of the data breaches happened in the medical industry. The volume of stolen data is constantly growing and affects up to 250,000 people each year in the US. It is important to protect health insurance cards as well as the Social Security number.
Family members might also appear to be fraudsters
A family is our support, and the dearest people are the ones who we trust and rely on. However, Identity Guard reports that cases of family identity theft are not rare because family members or close friends may easily get our personal data, while it seems impossible for us to suspect them. For most of people, it appears to be hard emotionally to report such scams and prosecute a loved one, so they don’t even try.
Social media profiles are the perfect source of personal data
Nowadays, people share too much personal information on social media. According to research, just your full name, date of birth, and hometown gave on Facebook can be enough to threaten your identity. That’s why it is better to keep the key pieces of your personal information private, as well as to make your whole profile private. Also, avoid sharing innocent, as they seem, details about your doctor, place of work or postal address, etc. The less is known to a wide audience – the better for you. And teach your kids to do so, too.
Fraudsters sometimes steal your mail
Fraud happens not only online. It is easy for an impostor to steal papers with an important piece of your personal data from the mailbox while you don’t expect it.
Public places are the danger zone
Some fraudsters look for the victims in public places. They may peek over your shoulder to get to know the pin of your credit card while you enter it at ATM. Same works with the password on a smartphone. Loud talking on the phone in public transport, for example, may also reveal some of your personal information to a criminal. And, of course, your documents, wallet, credit cards, phone, or other gadgets being stolen is something you should always beware of.
Your smartphone can compromise your identity
Personal data, as well as your contacts, can be found on your smartphone, especially if you order things online. Always choose only a secure Wi-Fi connection and use a screen lock or a password for your phone.
Many identity thefts happen because of too simple passwords
According to the TeleSign survey, the most popular passwords over the last several years have been ‘123456’, ‘password’, and ‘qwerty’. Add here the fact that 47% of people use passwords that are at least 5 years old. One of the best identity theft protection tips is to change your passwords regularly. Do it at least once a month. Avoid similar combinations; create complex “strong” passwords.
Your child’s identity is under threat
According to detailed research carried out by Carnegie Mellon Cylab in 2011, over 10% of children become victims of identity theft at the age of 18. Here are a couple of child identity theft facts:
- A child’s Social Security number can be stolen by hackers or other criminals because it’s credit history is blank. Moreover, kids don’t check their credit reports.
- Most often, the fraud is discovered after a long time.
Children are especially vulnerable to this crime. A kid may reveal his/her personal data on a social site by talking to strangers or filling out school forms. Educate your youngsters not to tell any personal detail to strangers. As for yourself, make sure to keep all your important documents in a safe place and shred old documents before throwing them out.
Suppose you suddenly receive collecting calls and checks for things that you didn’t buy. In that case, IRS notices saying that your son or daughter didn’t pay income taxes, or you are turned down for medical or government benefits, most probably your child’s Identity has been stolen. You should report the fraud to the police immediately and to major credit bureaus. To prevent problems, you should monitor your child’s credit report regularly.
Do you share any personal information online? Share your stories in the comments