Identity Theft- How Likely are You to Become a Victim

Consider the following statistics from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse:

  • About 9 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year
  • The yearly fraud amount is about $50 million
  • The mean fraud amount per victim is about $6000

This crime is a huge business. However, there are ways you can avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. A place to start is to know how identity thieves obtain your information (Keep in mind, though, that four out of five identity theft victims have no idea how their information was stolen).

Identity Theft Techniques

Following are some methods used by thieves to steal your identity:

  • Dumpster diving through garbage to secure personal information
  • Retrieving personal data via old IT equipment, storage media or hard drives that have been disposed more carelessly than they should have been
  • Stealing credit cards, passports, social security cards, etc. by burglary, mail theft or pickpocketing
  • Skimming credit card information from hand-held readers or other compromised credit card scanning devices
  • Accessing public records published in official registers
  • Hacking into computer networks or databases
  • Advertising bogus employment offers established to extract personal information from resumes
  • Conning individuals at companies to provide personal information
  • Stealing checks

The Results of Stolen Identities

Following are the top six results of stolen identities. Any of these could cost identity theft victims thousands of dollars:

  • Credit card information was obtained
  • A computer record containing personal information was obtained
  • A wallet or purse was stolen
  • Charge accounts were opened and purchases were made in the victim’s name
  • Bank accounts were open or forged checks were used
  • Mail was obtained and used to steal an identity

Be Vigilant in These Four Areas

There are four areas of personal information where you are most susceptible to identity theft:

  • Social Security Number (SSN)- Do not carry it in your wallet or purse; do not write your SSN on other papers in your wallet or purse; Do not print it on your personal checks; Make sure your SSN is never on public display
  • Handling of Personal Information- Use a locked, secure post office box to receive your mail; do not leave incoming or outgoing mail unattended; maintain personal information in a protected area; order a copy of your credit report yearly
  • Document Disposal- Purchase and use a shredder; place it near a trash can; realize that thieves root around garbage to obtain personal information
  • Alertness to Scams- Pay attention to how establishments handle your credit cards; hang up on telephone solicitors; query any requestor before supplying your SSN; install security software on your computer

You will greatly reduce the chances of being an identity theft victim if you remain vigilant in these four areas regarding your personal and financial information.