Recently, the “Happiest Place on Earth” wasn’t living up to its name for many families. For almost a full year, malicious software had been installed on point-of-sale systems at several Earl Enterprises restaurants. This software then captured debit and credit card numbers, expiration dates, and cardholder names of users purchasing food at these venues. Identity theft has become too commonplace in our day and age and we need to become better educated on where we are most likely to encounter threats as well as ways to avoid becoming victims.
How many people are truly affected by identity theft? According to IdentityForce.com, here are some basic numbers:
- In 2017, 6.64 percent of consumers became victims of identity fraud, or about 1 in 15 people
- That equals 16.7 million victims last year, an increase of 1 million from 2016
- Over 1 million children in the U.S. were victims of identity theft in 2017, costing families $540 million in out-of-pocket expenses
- There’s a new victim of identity theft every 2 seconds
- Identity theft is one of the most common consequences of data breaches, as 31.7 percent of breach victims experienced ID theft
- There were 1,579 data breaches exposing 179 million records last year
- It takes most victims of identity theft 3 months to find out what’s happening, but 16 percent don’t find out for 3 years
How do you protect yourself from identity theft? Experts agree that there are several basic steps to take to help prevent theft from happening.
CHANGE PASSWORDS REGULARLY
If you are anything like me, you frequently forget the passwords you have for the numerous online accounts you manage. One way to manage those passwords, and help you remember to change them, is an online password manager like LastPass. Enter the passwords into this secure account and then you’ll just need to remember one password to access them all. Was there a security breach at your gym? Just log on to LastPass and in one click, you can have a new password for your account and can go along with your day.
AVOID PUTTING PERSONAL INFO ON SOCIAL MEDIA
In an era of “over-sharing” you must be cautious about giving away personal information on your social media accounts. Thieves are smart and can mine your accounts for information. When you post about being out on vacation, you open the door for thieves to come rob your home. The same holds true for identity theft. Be careful about posting sensitive information online like maiden name, age, birthday—even your high school! All it takes is one crafty thief to take the background info you’ve posted on social media and open a new credit card in your name. Use caution when you share this sensitive information online.
CHECK YOUR ACCOUNTS REGULARLY
Gone are the days of getting a bank statement in the mail every month that you reconcile with your checking account ledger. With almost all of our banking transactions occurring online, many people never check the detailed statements for their accounts. This is exactly what the identity thieves want to happen. Check your bank statements for transactions you didn’t make, medical bills for care you didn’t receive, and credit card statements for cards you do not have. Also, make it a practice to check each of your three credit reports at least once a year—and the best part is that this is free for you to use!
ID THEFT INSURANCE
One last way to protect yourself against identity theft is to enroll in ID Theft Insurance. While ID Theft Insurance does not protect against the actual monetary theft, it does cover the costs you, as the victim, will incur while rebuilding your identity. The coverage may include:
- Phone call and photocopying charges
- Postage fees for mailing documents
- Salary loss due to uncompensated time away from work while repairing one’s identity
- Legal fees
- Access to a fraud specialist who can assist in restoring good credit and protecting one’s identity again
- Help with preparing documents, filing police reports and creating a fraud victim affidavit
Taking these steps will help protect you and your family from identity theft. While it doesn’t guarantee you will be protected all the time, it does make it harder for the thieves to gain access to your protected information—and this can make your identity stay in a happy place—with you!