Identity theft is a growing problem with $20 billion stolen each year. In the U.S. alone, there are over 11 million victims of identity theft every year. As identity thieves find new and innovative ways to steal information, it becomes that much more important for consumers to know how to safeguard themselves.
This presentation card begins by noting that identity thieves use other people’s personal information for financial gain, fraud, or deception. This information may include Social Security numbers or credit card information and it may be used to take out loans or forge identification documents.
Personal information can be stolen through low- or high-tech methods. Low-tech methods include stealing mail, wallets, or financial documents or taking information from checks or driver’s licenses. These thieves may also photograph credit cards while they’re being used or call potential victims, pretending to be employees (bank, government, or otherwise) who are updating personal information. High-tech methods involve hacking computers, setting up fake websites, sending fraudulent emails, or stealing data from third parties.
With these methods of identity theft in mind, the card goes on to address ways in which consumers can reduce the risk of having their information stolen. One of the most important items is to treat Social Security numbers as confidential information, providing it only when necessary and keeping Social Security cards in secure locations.
Consumers should shred all financial documents before throwing them out and eliminate the paper trail where possible using secure websites for bill payments. Unusual information on credit reports and bank statements can be an early tip-off that someone is attempting to steal personal information. And any phone calls or emails asking for personal information should be treted with skepticism.
Victims of identity fraud can spend anywhere from four to 130 hours resolving the problems caused by the theft, with an average financial loss of $3,000. But by being proactive, consumers can help to ensure that their personal information stays protected and confidential.