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According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft accounted for over 20 percent of the 3.2 million fraud cases reported to the organization in 2019. Specifically, the FTC received nearly 300,000 credit card fraud reports in 2019, making it the most common type of identity theft that year. Due to the breach of over 160 million documents, over 100 million consumers had their data compromised in 2019. Since identity fraud in the United States is increasing, data security experts recommend that consumers take certain actions in order to identify and proactively prevent identity fraud from occurring. Similarly, if fraud does occur, there are several actions recommended by the FTC and other organizations to respond to it and repair one’s credit score.
Identifying ID fraud
There are several methods that an individual could use to detect identity fraud. This includes routinely monitoring financial information and frequently reviewing banking transactions and credit card statements to notice any suspicious transactions. If this occurs, it may be best to contact the vendor where the card was charged to see if a fraudulent purchase was made. Similarly, an individual could contact their bank provider to investigate and dispute potentially fraudulent charges.
Additionally, an individual could detect occurrences of ID fraud by checking their credit report. Reviewing a credit statement could help an individual notice unfamiliar accounts or financial interactions. Many national credit reporting companies also have processes to help victims of credit fraud, such as the ability to freeze a credit report or enable alert notifications.
How can I proactively prevent identity fraud?
In addition to identifying identity fraud, there are many practices that could help an individual avoid becoming the victim of fraud. The first is to avoid using common or obvious passwords. Having common passwords, such as those which contain personal information or easily guessed words, could increase the likelihood of an identity thief obtaining your information. Similarly, many data security experts recommend against using the same password for multiple accounts. Having a different password for each account could help safeguard your other accounts if one becomes compromised.
Additionally, using secure websites and payment methods could further prevent identity fraud. This includes making sure a website is legitimate before providing any personal information and using a secure payment method, such as PayPal, to help protect your financial information. Similarly, avoiding unsecured wi-fi networks and opting for secured networks instead. This is because many secured wi-fi networks encrypt data, which could help protect information from being stolen.
Identity theft demographics
According to data from the FTC, individuals between the ages of 30 and 39 experienced the highest number of identity thefts in 2019 with over 170,000 occurrences. Individuals ages 80 and over experienced the least number of reported identity theft cases, with 5,687 cases reported in 2019. Of the reported cases, California, Nevada, and Georgia reported the highest identity theft rate. Overall, data security experts estimate that nearly one-third of adults in the United States have experienced identity theft at some point during their life.
What should I do when identity theft occurs?
According to the FTC, there are several actions that an individual should take once they become aware that their identity was stolen. This includes calling companies wherein the fraud occurred, placing a fraud alert with credit companies, and reporting the identity fraud to the FTC. Additionally, the FTC recommends that individuals close fraudulent accounts opened in their name and attempt to remove unfamiliar charges from their credit accounts. After an identity is stolen, it is also recommended that individuals consider replacing government-issued IDs.
What information should I not share online?
Avoiding sharing personal information on social media could also prevent identity thieves from obtaining information that could be used to steal your identity. In some cases, personal information could be used to answer security questions or provide hints about what an account password may be. Additionally, data security experts recommend that individuals never share critical personal or financial information over the phone or email, such as a social security number, passwords, or banking information.
Story by Daniel Schlanger of Schlanger Law Group LLP