Approximately 15 million United States residents have their identities used fraudulently each year with financial losses totaling upwards of $50 billion.
On a case-by-case basis, that means approximately 7% of all adults have their identities misused with each instance resulting in approximately $3,500 in losses.
Close to 100 million additional Americans have their personal identifying information placed at risk of identity theft each year when records maintained in government and corporate databases are lost or stolen.
These alarming statistics demonstrate identity theft may be the most frequent, costly and pervasive crime in the United States.
There are some simple steps you can take to reduce or minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.
Practice Safe Internet Use
Delete spam emails that ask for personal information, and keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software up-to-date. Shop online only with secure web pages (check the bottom of your browser for an image of a lock or look for “https” in the address bar). Never send credit card numbers, social security numbers and other personal information via email.
Destroy Private Records
Tear up or shred credit card statements; ATM, credit, or debit card receipts; bank deposit receipts; loan solicitations; and other documents that contain private financial information.
Secure Your Mail
Empty your mailbox quickly and get a mailbox lock. When mailing bill payments and checks, consider dropping them off at the post office or a secure mailbox.
Be Careful With Your Social Security Number
Your social security number is a major target for identity thieves because it can give them access to your credit report and bank accounts. Never carry your card with you. Instead, memorize your number and keep the card in a secure place at home or in a safe deposit box. Never write or print your social security number on checks.
Check Your Credit Report
At least once a year, obtain and review your credit report for suspicious activity. You can request a free copy of your report at www.annualcreditreport.com or by contacting any one of the three major credit reporting agencies.
Beware of Scams
Always be on the defensive with your private information. Never give out personal information to telemarketers or respond to emails from someone claiming to represent your bank, credit card issuer, a government agency, a charity, or other organization. If you think the request is legitimate, contact the company directly to confirm their claims. Failure to do so instantly puts your security at risk and will most likely lead to identity theft.