Identity theft is one of the country’s fastest growing crimes. Unfortunately, it’s also difficult to solve and possibly more damaging than typical theft and burglary.
Before you know it’s happening, criminals can attack you from another state, or from halfway across the world. Armed with just your name, Social Security Number and date of birth, a thief can get anything from a credit card to a driver’s license in your name.
The Five Most Common Types Of Identity Theft:
- Driver’s license
- Social Security
Financial identity theft is by far the most common type of identity theft. According to a 2019 Identity Fraud Study from Javelin Strategy & Research, fortunately the number of consumers who were victims of identity fraud fell to 14.4 million in 2018 – down from 16.7 million in 2017. However, 3 times the amount of people were financially responsible for some of the liability of the fraud committed against them, costing the victims $1.7 billion.
How Criminals Get Information
Although an identity thief might hack into a database to obtain personal information, experts say it’s more likely the thief will obtain information by using other techniques, such as:
- Mail theft – The thief steals information (ie: credit card bills) directly from a victim’s mailbox.
- Dumpster diving – Retrieving personal paperwork and mail from trash dumpsters is an easy way for an identity thief to get information.
- Shoulder surfing – This happens when the thief literally takes note of a victims information as they add it on forms, enter a passcode, or provide a credit card number.
- Phishing – This uses email to trick people into giving up their personal information. Phishing emails could contain malware attachments, or links to fraudulent websites designed to steal personal data.
How Can You Tell If You’ve Been A Victim?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has compiled some warning signs of being an identity theft victim, including:
- Victims notice withdrawals from their bank account that weren’t made by them.
- An impacted credit score.
- Victims don’t receive bills or mail containing sensitive information.
- False charges on their credit report.
- Medical records reflect a condition they don’t have.
- IRS notifications that another tax return was filed under their name.
- Victims are notified of a data breach at a company that stores their personal information.
On top of the immediate impact of losing money, victims of identity theft can also incur severe intangible costs, like; damage to reputation and lowered credit score. Depending on the circumstances, identity theft can take years to recover from.
How To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
Most experts recommend that people regularly check credit reports with major credit bureaus, pay attention to billing cycles, and follow up with creditors if bills do not arrive. You can also:
- Shred discarded credit applications or financial documents.
- Keep an eye out for unauthorized transactions.
- Avoid giving out personal information to unsolicited emails.
According to a 2020 report from identity verification company GVB, the prevalence of identity theft is starting to chip away at consumers’ trust that businesses will protect their data, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has caused a third of consumers to worry more about fraud, believing companies are buying and selling their personal information online. In addition, the report found that:
- Nearly half (47%) of consumers opened an online shopping account in 2020.
- 31% opened an online bank account.
Do You Need Identity Theft Protection?
Identity theft insurance covers expenses related to issues arising from identity theft, such as fees for attorneys and accountants. Some identity theft insurance also covers lost time at work, child or elder care. However, it does not cover stolen funds. Even though children, students, and the elderly are the most common victims of identity theft, anyone is a potential target, especially in this digital age where we do everything online. As a result, everyone can benefit from identity theft protection.
Check your providers terms and conditions to see if Identity Theft coverage is already included in your homeowners or renters insurance policy. If not, you can likely add it as a stand-alone policy.