Identity Theft

Each year, millions of Americans plan or hope to increase their income and save more money. The National Crime Prevention Council wants to help Americans work toward those goals and protect the financial security of their future. To accomplish this, they offer a variety of tools for protection against investment fraud and identity theft. The tools are available at NCPC.org, and site visitors will also find a variety of helpful publications with tips for protecting themselves against identity theft, mortgage fraud and investment fraud.

Consider these identity theft statistics:

·        In 2017, 6.64 percent of consumers became victims of identity fraud — that’s about 1 in 15 people

·        Overall, 33 percent of U.S. adults have experienced identity theft, which is more than twice the global average

·        One in five victims of identity theft have experienced it more than once

·        Over 1 million children in the U.S. were victims of identity theft in 2017, costing families $540 million in out-of-pocket expenses

·        There’s a new victim of identity theft every 2 seconds

·        Identity theft is one of the most common consequences of data breaches, and exposed consumer records jumped 126 percent in 2018

·        Emotional distress is reported by 77.3 percent of identity theft victims

In other words, if your chances of winning the lottery were 1 in 15, like the odds of being an ID theft victim, we would all have family, friends, and colleagues who are millionaires.

Identity thieves have several ways to steal information. They may rummage through garbage cans, hack into Internet-based financial accounts or use electronic devices to steal credit card numbers. When they have an individual’s location information, they may even file a change of address form to receive that person’s mail and steal financial information.

The NCPC offers the following tips for preventing identity theft:

·     Never provide a Social Security number over the Internet or phone.

·     Memorize all passwords, and never store passwords on a computer.  Okay, that works for some of us, but if your password list goes on for pages and pages, consider an electronic vault or any online password security service.

·     When buying items online, always use a credit card for the benefit of being able to dispute bad transactions.

·     Do not use an ATM when someone is within close range.

·     Shred documents that contain personal identifying information.   No shredder?   Go to a local office supply store that offers shredding services.  They charge a reasonable fee, by the pound.  

·     Beware of sites that offer free giveaways and prizes, and do not enter financial information on such sites.

·     Take advantage of developer-based browser add-ons and antivirus software to enhance Internet security.

·     Tell children to avoid giving out their address, phone number or Internet-based contact information.

·     Do not let children plan to meet any friends from Internet sites or chat rooms.

·     Avoid posting public photos of family members, a home, a vehicle or other identifying information on the Internet.

·     Be sure that Internet access at a child’s school is controlled by teachers or other designated responsible adults.

The NCPC offers additional tips, information and statistics on their site. If all Americans work together to prevent identity theft, millions of incidents can be prevented.  Another important step for adults to take is to check their credit history every year.  Each American adult is entitled to a free credit report copy, which is obtained at AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the only site approved by federal authorities for obtaining a free copy. View the report to look for any account, address and employment discrepancies, and dispute them if there are any. Suspicious accounts may be a sign that someone has stolen personal information and is misappropriating it.

Also, be aware of any odd-looking devices on ATMs, gas pumps and other places where cards are swiped. Thieves place logging devices that detach from these places. If a piece detaches or looks suspicious, report it to the establishment immediately. 

Consider purchasing identity theft protection.  To learn more about staying safe from identity theft and the impact of identity theft, discuss concerns with an agent.

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