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Identity Theft Protection

Identity Theft Protection

Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information or uses your credit accounts without your permission. At risk information be Social Security Numbers, date of birth, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, login and password credentials, and name and address. Identity fraud occurs when this information is used to make fraudulent purchases or withdrawals, create new accounts (credit cards, bank, phone, utilities, and loans) or change existing accounts.

Identity theft is a growing problem - and smart consumers know they can't rely completely on an identity theft service to "take care" of the issue. Consumers must take action themselves, including shredding documents that bear personal information before disposal, being careful online and only using secured sites, and never giving out personal information unless absolutely necessary. But that's just not enough. You should also sign up for a service that will monitor the Internet for the unauthorized use of your personal information, and does what you can't - monitor the Internet 24/7. Smart Credit does this, and will notify you immediately if any unauthorized activity is discovered. You can take action to stop identity theft in its tracks with Smart Credit's mobile Rapid Response, which sends alerts to your cell phone and with just the push of a button, you can stop the thief! Click here to learn more.

Becoming a victim of identity theft requires an investment of time and money to correct your records. It can also destroy your credit. Identity theft has been the number one consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission for eleven consecutive years.

Common Methods

Identity theft is a criminal act and is considered a felony. The most common methods of stealing identities are:

  • Skimming information from credit card or ATM cards
  • Paper mail theft
  • Hacking computer networks and databases
  • Redundant IT equipment (failure to remove passwords and personal information)
  • "Shoulder surfing" watching login credentials over users' shoulders
  • Dumpster diving, stealing personal data out of your garbage
  • Using stolen credit cards

Identity Theft Facts

  • One in every ten American consumers has been a victim of identity theft
  • Approximately 1.6 million households have had their bank accounts and/or debit cards compromised
  • Nearly 50% of victims learn of their identities stolen within three months
  • About 15% of victims don't learn of their identities being stolen for four or more years
  • Average amount taken from each identity theft victim amounts to $4,841 (approximately three months worth of full-time worker's wages)
  • Out of pocket expenses for a victim to resolve identity theft damage ranges from $851 to $1,378
  • Average time it takes to repair the damage done by identity theft is 330 hours or, said another way, over eight work weeks
  • In some cases, it takes up to 5,840 hours to fully correct the damage done from the theft, which is equivalent to working full time for two years
  • Approximately 70% of victims that have difficulty removing negative information stemming from the theft from their credit reports
  • Estimates have it that 1/3rd of identity theft cases are perpetrated by family or friends of the victim
  • 25.9 million Americans now carry identity theft insurance
  • 43% of identity fraud cases were spotted by consumers that monitored their accounts; those that use electronic methods had lower than average out-of-pocket costs

How to Protect Yourself

  • When Social Security Number is requested, ask if you can give alternate information
  • Don't give your credit card or bank account numbers to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call
  • Shred sensitive documents, all of them
  • Install anti-virus software and update regularly
  • Always secure digital information behind passwords
  • Never click on links in emails and then log into your accounts, go directly to the website from outside the email
  • Change your passwords often
  • Turn off your cell phone's blue tooth and Wi-Fi when not in use
  • Monitor bank accounts at least weekly, preferably daily
  • Sign up for available mobile or email alerts by your institution
  • Monitor credit reports to spot unauthorized activity
  • Notify your creditors and the credit reporting agencies immediately if you card has been lost or stolen
  • Work through your bank and protection service provider to report problems immediately
  • Use available services to restore the worthiness of your accounts and credit
  • Take full advantage of your financial provider's offers of loss

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