Identity theft is real. So why do I constantly hear from friends and family that they just don’t believe it can happen to them? What are the identity theft facts everyone should know?
The stats don’t lie––one in four adults will have their identity stolen this year to the tune of $54 billion dollars in fraud. Identity theft is six times more likely than burglary and 500 times more likely than purse snatching, according to Identitytheftcouncil.org. The Boston Globe reported that in the first six months of 2013, a total of 1.6 million taxpayers were affected by identity theft, compared with 271,000 for all of 2010.
At IdentityForce, we know that identity theft can wreak havoc with your finances, credit history, and reputation and take a lot of time and effort to resolve. So let’s address some of the myths that give people a false sense of security. It’s time to bust these myths wide open and reveal the identity theft facts.
Myth: Identity Theft Is Easily Fixed
Many people believe that victims of identity theft can ultimately get their money back and remedy the situation. Therefore, they view it as more of an annoyance than a serious problem.
While it’s true that most credit card companies offer their cardholders restitution for fraudulent charges, you should know––credit card fraud is only one of many types of identity theft. Identity thieves can do serious damage such as draining your bank account, opening new accounts in your name, or even getting medical treatment on your health insurance. Some thieves file a tax return under a name they have stolen and get the refund fraudulently.
Victims of identity theft receive endless harassing calls from collection agencies and creditors, and spend a lot of time and money trying to remedy the breach. They may also suffer from anxiety, embarrassment, and even anger as they go through the lengthy and frustrating process of trying to restore their good name
It can take more than 30 days for a creditor to even acknowledge a disputed charge, and longer to resolve it. Charges can rack up quickly, so make it a habit to check your bank and credit card statements regularly for suspicious activity.
Myth: My Antivirus Software Protects Me from Identity Theft
Although antivirus software certainly is an important safeguard, it’s not a magic bullet. Security software developers and hackers are at war and do battle every day. We are the casualties on their battlefield. In fact:
- Most antivirus programs catch only a fraction of known malware
- Antivirus software only protects against known malicious software––not new ones
- Most infections occur within 48 hours of a malware release, before antivirus software can catch up
Myth: I Don’t Shop Online So I’m Not at Risk
It’s a common myth that most identity theft takes place online. Consumers who don’t use the Internet often think they’re safe from this type of crime. In reality, more than half of identity theft crimes happen offline. Paper documents like licenses and social security cards are used for the majority of identity theft crimes. Retailer data breaches, like the one we wrote about at Target, also make consumers vulnerable.
Myth: I Would Know Right Away If My Identity Was Stolen
If you’re not vigilant, you won’t realize that your identity was stolen. Keeping an eye on your current credit card statements isn’t enough because the thief may simply open new cards in your name. Protect yourself by requesting a credit report from each of the three major reporting agencies at least once a year. You may want to consider staggering your free reports so you can check one every four months.
Protect What Matters Most
It’s important that you take identity theft seriously and maintain the proper precautions to protect yourself and your family. So don’t forget to check your credit card statements regularly for suspicious activity, and think about adding another layer of protection by enrolling in IdentityForce’s UltraSecure+Credit. Your personal information, including your credit, will be monitored 24/7, and you’ll be notified immediately of any suspicious activity so you can act before any damage is done. If anything does happen, IdentityForce will be with you every step of the way helping you restore your identity.
Image courtesy of Flickr user B Rosen.