Identity theft is becoming an increasingly common threat faced by all Americans. Identity theft involves someone stealing personal information about you that can be used to purchase goods, withdraw money from your account, obtain false IDs, etc.
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the U.S., particularly because it is an easy crime to commit and it is a hard crime to solve and prosecute. Ten million Americans are victims of identity crimes every year, and their information is used to obtain credit cards, open bank accounts, and make other financial transactions.
Criminals commit this crime by stealing wallets that contain credit cards, IDs, and personal information. They also steal laptops or rummage through trash bins that contain personal documents.
Identity theft costs more than $50 billion per year to resolve and Americans spend over 300 million hours trying to resolve the issues presented by the theft.
Here are some tips to protect your identity:
- One-quarter of identity thefts involve someone you know. Don’t give your personal information out to anyone!
- Don’t assume your workplace is safe either! Don’t record personal info on your work computer or leave papers in your desk for others to discover.
- Make sure your laptop is password encrypted, so if it is stolen it can’t be utilized for your personal information.
- Shred all personal documents.
- Only carry the most necessary info in your wallet, including one credit card that says “SEE ID” on the back instead of containing your signature.
- Don’t list your social security number on your driver’s license or anywhere else that thieves might find it.
- Consider just putting your initials on your bank checks, and don’t include your address or home phone number.
- Never give out any personal information over the phone.
- Monitor your accounts each month and look for transactions you didn’t make.
Alert your bank and the police immediately if you discover any evidence of identity theft, or if you have had your wallet or other personal affects stolen.