According to a report by Experian, only 18% of Americans utilize paid Identity Protection Services to safeguard their identity, 13% use Identity Protection Services to closely monitor their finances and credit information, while a major chunk, 81% of Americans,  rely on credit card companies and banks to protect them from identity theft.

This shocking data clearly states an astonishing fact that a majority of Americans are either clueless about the impending threat to their identity or they don’t know what can be done to safeguard their identity from being stolen.

Everything you should know about ‘Identity Theft’:

Awareness is the key to protection, which means that to protect one’s identity – the first step is to be able to recognize identity theft.

Identity theft refers to a crime in which the identity of a person is taken-this usually involves the stealing of the victim’s personal as well as financial data to then open up new credit cards, charge items or get drivers licenses and even passports.

The issue of identity theft is so severe that the US Government has now made identity theft a federal crime, with punishment ranging from two to five years based on the actual severity of the situation. Once a person’s identity is stolen, the thief can do several things:

  • Tax Fraud, the thief uses a stolen Social Security number to claim a tax refund, file a tax return or gain employment
  • Credit Card Fraud, a stolen credit card is used for personal gain such as fraudulent purchases
  • Bank Fraud, the identity thief uses the stolen identity to gain access to financial accounts, withdraw funds and in some cases open a new bank account with a stolen identity
  • Loan Fraud, the thief uses a stolen identity to borrow large sums of money
  • Government Benefits Fraud, the identity thief can also use a stolen identity to claim Government benefits

‘1.3 million children’s records are stolen each year!’ –  Identity Theft Resource Center

Warning Signs of an Identity Theft

Being billed for purchases you did not make is a major warning sign If you are getting invoices for online purchases that you have not made, or if you are billed for a credit card that you do not own, this most likely means you are the victim of identity fraud.

When you are denied for a loan or credit card, despite having a sound credit history, you might be a victim of identity theft.

Absence of household bills in the mail: If you are not receiving your regular household utility bills in the mail, do not overlook this sign. Instead, investigate the cause. Chances are your billing address has been changed by an identity thief.

Fraudulent financial transactions: if you notice unauthorized financial or credit card transactions, your account security is compromised.

Rejected tax return: If you notice irregularity such as a rejection on your tax return do not overlook it instead check to ensure that your tax return hasn’t been filed fraudulently by an identity thief.

Protect Yourself from Potential Identity Theft

It would be a smart move on your part if you take certain precautionary steps that minimize the risk of identity theft. Your safety measures will ensure that hacking into your personal details and using them without your consent, will not be an easy task for identity thieves.

  1. Set Passwords

Having a strong password is the first step to ensure your safety.

According to a recent study, ‘50% of Americans do not have passwords to protect their digital devices, 30% feel passwords are a big hassle and 25% think passwords are unnecessary’.

But the truth is passwords act as a digital signature that is required to access your personal information. By leaving your digital devices or financial accounts unprotected you are letting yourself become a sitting duck to anyone with malicious intent.

  1. Set Different Passwords

Using the same password for multiple accounts and devices is not advisable, as hackers know that people tend to use the same password at several places. Even though remembering different passwords is a tedious task it is important to understand that once a hacker has obtained your password, it is easy for him to get access to your other accounts.

Also, do not use your name or date of birth as a password as these are the first options to be tried by a thief.

  1. Check Credit Reports Regularly

A credit report will bring to light any unauthorized transactions or suspicious activity, check your report regularly as a safety measure to protect yourself.

  1. Hire a Professional Identity Protection Service Provider

You can engage a service provider for protection of your identity, identity protection service providers constantly monitor your bank and credit card accounts for any kind of suspicious activity, and also to claim your identity back from hackers.

  1. Set Fraud Alerts

In case you suspect your identity has been stolen, you can connect with your Identity Protection Services provider to send out fraud alerts to other bureaus.

In case the security company does find a potential breach, they will notify the client of potential theft.

  1. Do not share Personal Information

Identity thieves regularly pose as customer service reps to get personal details from unsuspecting people. IRS, banks and credit card companies never call their clients to ask for details such as social security numbers, credit card PIN’s etc. In case you receive such a call do not engage in a long conversation with the caller, instead, hang up and notify the bank.

To Sum Up!

Staying alert and vigilant is the most important and effective way to protect oneself. It is also important to not take the security of your personal data and financial accounts for granted. By constantly monitoring your accounts and engaging the services of professional Identity Protection Services is a foolproof way to ensure the safety of your identity and financial accounts.