Why Identity Theft Isn’t Always Your Fault
According to figures from the Bureau of Justice close to 17 million people had their identities stolen in 2012 with nearly $25 billion in financial losses. Much of that is due to carelessness on the part of individual consumers and there are many things that they can do to take preventative action to protect their identities from being ripped off.
But that is peanuts compared to the big time crooks from Russia and Eastern Europe who will do massive hacking jobs into big retailers to steal millions and sometimes billions of passwords and usernames. These stolen tidbits of information can then be sold to the highest bidder. So ID theft may not even be your fault.
If you have ever had your identity stolen, you know what an absolute nightmare it is getting your financial condition repaired. Of course there is a financial loss which can be substantial depending on your station in life, but there is also the damage to your credit-the unseen damage if you will that can do immeasurable harm to you for years to come.
In today’s blog post we will take a look at what you can do to protect your own identity, steps you can take after your identity has been stolen and identify some places where you need to be careful before you shop.
In this article by the highly respected Christian Science Monitor they revealed that Russian hackers have stolen 1.2 billion usernames and passwords from over 420,000 websites. This obviously creates a major concern for American consumers who are now thinking twice about how they shop and where they shop.
The article goes on to say that consumers are checking their credit reports more frequently, using cash more often and scaling back on online purchases. This is according to a survey done by LowCards.com, a website that specializes in credit card information. The survey was of more than 400 individuals-which many consider to be insignificant. The results of the survey though point to worrying signs for companies who report credit card breaches.
According to the same story, the giant retailer, Target, which lost 40 million credit card numbers and 70 million addresses, phone numbers and other personal information to hackers from Eastern Europe, is still struggling to win back shoppers trust. This is just an example of the losses incurred by companies such as Neiman Marcus, Michael’s, Sally Beauty and other retailers who have had credit card breaches.
In the same survey 56% of the respondents said they were taking active measures to protect themselves from identity theft.
There are all kinds of companies that for a fee claim to protect your identity from being stolen-so-called identity theft alerts.
First you should know that anybody is subject to having their identity stolen. It is the only crime that can victimize you from a distance. The old days of hiding your head underneath your pillow along with your money isn’t good enough. Foreigners can hack into your accounts and steal your money while you’re asleep.
The FBI tells us that identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country.
Some identity theft protection programs create a false sense of security and according to some are considered a waste of money.
Identity thieves do not need your complete home address, date of birth and full Social Security number. They may not even need your full name.
Prevention, of course, is the number one action to take. Get in the habit of getting your free credit report every four months. There are three credit bureaus and you’re entitled to one every year. So alternate companies and order your credit report once every four months. If you see any inquiries on your report that you did not make, you know someone is trying to steal your information.
Steps To Take After You Discover Your Identity Has Been Stolen!
If this happens to you, place a fraud alert on your account by using one of the three bureaus. They are required by law to notify the other bureaus. Then order your credit reports online. If you are a victim of identity theft you may get them for free.
Once you’ve done that then create an “identity theft report.” One step in this process is to submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission and get an identity theft affidavit which is needed to file with the police. Authorities may tell you that you don’t need to file a report, but you do. So you may have to insist on this. Once you have this you can get an extended fraud alert for seven years guaranteeing you protection as a victim of identity theft.
The American legal system provides a guarantee that you will not have to live with the damages of identity theft but you must take these steps to rectify the damages after you have become a victim.
You can suffer severe financial consequences if you are a victim of identity theft. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that their identity has been stolen until it is way too late when they may be in the process of buying a car or getting a home financed. That is why if you follow these identity theft prevention tips, you can avoid the problem in the first place. If you have ever become a victim you will wish that you had taken these simple preventative steps.
How To Prevent Identity Theft!
- Review your credit reports regularly and not just for you, but your children too.
- As much of a hassle as it is, use difficult and unique passwords for online accounts and use different passwords at each site, not the same ones for all accounts like most of us do.
- Check your credit card and bank statements carefully every month to make sure that you agree with them.
- Shred all documents that have your name and any sensitive information on them and use paperless statements where possible.
- Take a look at your health insurance medical claims record to be sure no one else has your insurance card.
- Don’t carry all your important documents with you such as passport, birth certificate, credit cards and blank checks.
- Be aware of the scams associated with getting your personal information commonly called “pfishing” and others. Don’t ever give your personal information out over the phone.
- On your personal computer make sure you have a strong antivirus, anti-spyware program and updated firewall.
For more on ID theft see our post on why ID Theft Is A Threat To Everyone.
Have you ever had your identity stolen? Please share your experience and tell us what happened.