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5 Facts About Identity Theft & How Thieves Target You

5 min read

Securing your personal identifying information and financial records is more challenging today than ever. While we have many more tools available to prevent identity theft, the assaults on our personal data are relentless, coordinated, and complex. No single app or electronic protection can stop your identity from being used against you. So, it’s essential that you learn how to protect yourself from identity theft and remain vigilant. When you are actively engaged in keeping your identifying statistics private, the high-tech tools you employ will be far more effective.

Let's take a look at five facts about identity theft, five identity theft examples, and tips for how to protect your personal information.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is when someone else obtains your personal information and uses it to commit fraud. Thieves target your identifying data like your social security number, birthdate, mother’s maiden name, address, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, phone numbers, and passwords. The thieves may open credit cards or take out bank loans in your name with this information.

Criminals can intercept your tax refund, con you out of money, and change your passwords and contact information, so you don’t receive notification of these changes. Identity thieves are constantly evolving their strategies to scam you. Efforts to prevent identity theft must do the same.

Do you feel safe when you learn about identity theft examples where someone has given out their social security number over the phone? It’s easy to mistakenly feel secure because you’re confident you would never do that. However, much of your information, like your address and phone number, is publicly available. With this data, thieves can gain more, like your birth date and the names of your family members and friends (hello, social media). With this information, they can plausibly pose as someone with a right to your information, like someone from the IRS or your bank.

5 Facts About Identity Theft

Identity theft is a scourge worldwide and increasing at breathtaking rates.

Fact #1 - Staggering Losses

According to the National Council on Identity Theft Protection, in 2021, identity theft losses cost Americans $5.8 billion. That represents a 70 percent increase over 2020. This extraordinary growth is expected to quicken even more in 2022. Experts estimate that a case of identity theft occurs every 22 seconds. Yet, according to Norton Lifelock, a leading cyber security firm, 68 percent of people say they don’t know how to check whether their identity has been stolen. Monitoring your financial health is essential to prevent identity theft.

Fact #2 - Identity Theft on Social Media is Rampant

Social media has been a boon for identity thieves. Just think about it. Do your social media profiles include your full name, including your middle name? How about your birth date, hometown, schools attended, relationship status, relatives’ names, hobbies, and affiliations? This information is invaluable for someone targeting you with phishing scams, trying to break your passwords, or guessing your security questions and answers. Secure your profiles and use privacy settings to help prevent identity theft on social media.

Fact #3 - Recovery from Identity Theft is Costly

Norton Lifelock reports that victims of identity theft worldwide collectively spent nearly 4.4 billion hours working to resolve the issue. And half of the victims reported financial loss. In addition, 40 percent of victims report mental health impairment or sleep loss resulting from the crimes.

Fact #4 - Youth is No Protection

It’s commonly believed that credulous senior citizens who lack technological sophistication are the primary targets of identity theft. Although it’s undoubtedly true that seniors are vulnerable, identity theft is purely opportunistic, and youth offers no protection. It is critical to work to prevent identity theft at any age. A study by Javelin Strategy reports that child identity theft costs American families nearly $1 billion yearly. One out of 50 kids is affected, with the theft often continuing for years before it’s discovered that credit cards, home loans, and lines of credit have been taken out in the name of an eight-year-old child. However, the Consumer Sentinel Network reports that the group most affected by identity theft is millennials aged 30-39.

Fact #5 - Low Tech Identity Theft Foils High Tech Prevention

One of the most frightening facts about identity theft is how vulnerable we remain. Many forms of identity theft combine high-tech and low-tech strategies that can circumvent any single safety protocol. Several online cyber security tools can alert you to potential phishing attempts and fraudulent sites or notify you of data breaches. However, they can do nothing against low-tech assaults like dumpster diving, home burglary, or social engineering. The best way to prevent identity theft is through using a combination of cyber security tools, active protection of your personal information offline, and monitoring your credit report.

Preventative Identity Theft Tips

Learning how to protect yourself from identity theft should include more time and research. But these identity theft tips are a great start:

Destroy Financial Statements: Don’t discard bank statements, credit card or utility bills, or other papers that include any personally identifying information. Invest in a high-quality document shredder.

Safeguard Your Social Security Number: Do not carry your social security card with you or provide the number by phone or email. It is the key that unlocks your entire financial identity.

Monitor Your Credit Report: Reputable and free online services like Credit Karma or Experian let you monitor your credit report so you can stop an ID theft occurrence from continuing.

Remain Vigilant at ATMs: Always be aware of your surroundings when entering your PIN at a cash machine. Watch not just for someone standing too close and looking over your shoulder, they could be standing back further, recording your movements on their smartphone.

Review Credit Card Statements Carefully: Always study all credit card transactions to ensure they’re legitimate. Minimal purchases you don’t recognize may represent scammers testing before attempting more significant fraud.

Protecting your data from identity theft begins at home. Carefully manage your use of bills, statements, and other documents that contain your personal identifying information. To protect yourself from a home burglary and other issues, why not check in with a Wawanesa agent to review your homeowners insurance coverage or renters insurance? Let’s make sure you’re fully covered.

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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.

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