The Majority of Identity Theft Doesn’t Occur in Cyberspace
In recent years, over half of identity theft and fraud originated from paper information. A lost or stolen wallet or checkbook, stolen paper mail, fraudulent changes of address, or documents taken from your trash are all ways criminals can obtain your private information. Medical and insurance information is also valuable to identity thieves, so even a carelessly discarded “Explanation of Benefits” statement from your insurance company can leave you at risk.
The Majority of Perpetrators Know Their Victims
It is a sad but accurate fact: family members, friends, and co-workers are frequently the perpetrators of identity fraud. A 2018 Javelin Strategy & Research report estimated 60 percent of child victims and 7 percent of adult victims personally knew the perpetrator. A family member or friend may be able to easily access a child’s social security card and birth certificate if these documents are not properly secured, and then they can obtain credit cards and loans in the child’s name.
The Majority of Identity Fraud is Self-Detected
Those who are reviewing their credit card and bank account transactions online will discover insufficient funds and spot unauthorized transactions faster than those who simply review their monthly paper statements when they arrive. Opting in for text or email alerts from your bank or credit card companies regarding large purchases or account changes also helps notify users faster of a potential breach.
Identity Protection Services Are Not Miracle Workers
Many people mistakenly believe identity theft services can stop their information from being fraudulently used. These services can be helpful by alerting you about possible fraudulent use of your personal information, but no service can erase information already released on the dark web. These companies often provide support in disputing fraudulent charges on your credit report, freezing your credit, and offer some insurance benefits towards the costs of dealing with identity theft.
How Can I Protect Myself?
In addition to following safe online security practices, be sure to make security a priority at home. The more paper records you keep, the greater the need for a secure method to store and discard them. The following tips can help protect you against financial identity fraud:
- Manage and monitor your accounts online.
- Keep confidential paper records in a secured location.
- Collect your mail promptly. Shred unwanted credit card applications and insurance offers before discarding them.
- Sign up for automatic payroll deposits.
- Perform a background check on all service providers who will have access to your home.
- Keep passwords hidden (including at home) and change them frequently.
- Arrange for hard drive destruction of any computer before discarding it.
- Password protect your cell phone and other mobile devices. Your cell phone can be accessed to commit identity theft via the apps and other information it stores.
- Use and regularly update firewalls and anti-virus software.
- Review your credit report for accuracy a minimum of once per year.