(LibertySociety.com) – Every year, millions of Americans have their identities stolen. This crime is not only financially devastating but also emotionally draining and frustrating, too. Opening new bank accounts, switching cards on all of your auto-pay accounts, and just generally regaining control over your own information can become an enormous drain on time.
Identity Theft Facts
According to a 2016 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 10% of people 16-years and older reported being a victim of identity theft within a 12-month period.
The vast majority of the victims (85%) said the crime involved an existing bank account or credit card account. For instance, they may have had their debit card numbers stolen by a skimmer at a gas pump.
Another BJS study in 2014 found that 2.6 million seniors had had their identities stolen. The average cost of the losses suffered at the hands of the thieves was less than $100. Of course, the aggravation can’t be measured in dollars.
Unfortunately, very few actions will provide total protection from identity theft — especially in an age where so much of your information is already in cyberspace. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any options to help you stay safe at all.
Reduce your risk by:
- Making sure you are looking at your account activity regularly.
- Reporting any abnormalities (e.g., transactions you don’t recognize).
- Go inside the gas station to pay for your fuel to avoid skimmers on the pumps.
- Shred mail and other documents that contain your personal information.
- Avoid leaving your wallet, purse, ID, mail, etc. in the car.
- Keep your Social Security card and birth certificate in a safe place.
- Update anti-virus software on your computer and/or phone regularly.
- Never share personal or financial information with strangers.
Unfortunately, criminals who want to take advantage of others will always exist. If you think you might be a victim of identity theft, report it to the Federal Trade Commission, your bank, credit card account holders, and the credit bureaus. Stay vigilant, and stay safe.
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