Identity theft is the one of the highest reported scams in the United States. 2020 saw some concerning numbers when it came to identity theft. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, consumers lost $56 billion to identity fraud. Additionally, there were nearly 1.4 million reports of identity theft filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alone.
Identity theft can have lasting, damaging effects on finances, medical records, and even mental health. When someone assumes another’s identity, it can ruin their reputation. Here are some ways that identity theft can cause harm:
- Insurance information may be stolen and used for medical services, leading to the policy reaching the maximum payout.
- A social security number can be used to open new credit accounts or apply for a loan, tanking the victim's credit score.
- Worse yet, crimes may be committed using a stolen identity, leaving the victim with a criminal record.
If you suspect that your identity has been stolen, report the incident to IdentityTheft.gov and create a personalized recovery plan. You can also call Identity Theft Resource Center if you would like to speak to a trained support specialist to build back your identity.
Tips to Prevent Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft:
- Shred or tear up personal financial documents before discarding them.
- Do not print personal identifiers such as your social security number, date of birth or driver’s license number on your checks.
- Use your social security number only when absolutely necessary.
- Only reveal information online when the website is securely protected (look for a yellow padlock symbol in the corner of your computer screen).
- Do not provide personal, financial or any other identifying information to a telephone caller. Ask for the caller’s name and telephone number, and then check to see that the caller is legitimate.
- Pay attention to your credit card billing cycles, as identity thieves may reroute bills to another address to hide criminal activities involving your accounts.
- Carefully review all monthly credit card statements and check for unauthorized use.
- Get a copy of your credit report at least once a year to check for possible errors.
- Minimize the number of cards and identifying information you carry, especially your social security card and passport.
- Before revealing any information – online, over the phone, or in person – ask how it will be used.
During Identity Theft Awareness Week, the NICB will be sharing tips like these and more to keep our members and consumers prepared.