Identity theft is a severe crime emerging these days. Anyone can be the next identity theft victim. The impact of identity theft on people is widespread. ID Theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world, specifically in the United States.
Men, women or kids, everyone is the target of identity thieves, doesn’t matter what is the age, race or income of the person. The thieves seek opportunity in everyone. After all, a dollar has the same value, no matter whose account it is taken from.
How Many Americans Have Been Affected By Identity Theft?
According to a recent survey from Bankrate.com, 41 million Americans have been victims of identity theft, and approximately 50 million Americans said they know someone who has been an identity theft victim. This means that every 2 in 5 American have had a firsthand or secondhand experience of identity theft.
These alarming statistics prove identity theft is the most recurrent and prevalent crime in the United States.
Role of Web in Identity Theft
The web or the internet has significantly changed our lives, and we are enjoying it too. Everything is available on the internet for our comfort. But with this comfort, comes great risks too. As our lives are becoming more and more digital with the advancements in the technology, the risk of identity theft also increases more and more. Whether we admit it or not, but this is the reality that we have to face.
Since everything is easily accessible on the internet, chances of getting caught are also high. Cyber criminals always hunt for the people who share high amount of their personal information on the web. Therefore, the risk Americans face from these dangerous cyber criminals is on the rise.
Data breaches also play a major role in increasing the probabilities of finding personal information online. Data breaches at stores, hotels, companies, etc. give opportunities to identity thieves to find personal information online to commit identity theft in a major way.
Techniques of Identity Thieves
Identity thieves are incorporating all sorts of techniques for committing identity theft. From customized email phishing scams for attacking an individual to large scale data breaches including hacking corporate and government databases. The techniques of identity thieves are becoming more and more sophisticated. Their techniques are expanding more and more. Therefore, there is an ever-increasing threat of cyber-crime to all Americans.
At the same time, basic original methods of identity theft are also prevalent. Techniques such as stealing wallets, dumpster diving, stealing mails, etc. also work.
As the methods for performing identity theft expand, similarly the types of accounts and services being hacked by identity thieves are also expanding. Credit card account, checking and saving bank accounts are no longer the only targets. Identity theft has expanded to a great extent which includes theft of mortgages, medical insurance, etc. Not just these, mobile phone services, electricity services, water services, etc. are also the target.
Protecting From Identity Theft
In spite of these high numbers of identity theft victims, most Americans don’t take the necessary steps to safeguard themselves and make their information less accessible to hackers. Many people are not doing enough to protect their identities. This is a widespread problem.
- According to the survey by Bankrate.com, more than 40% of survey respondents said they don’t check their credit reports on a regular basis. Although checking credit reports regularly isn’t going to prevent you from being an identity theft victim, but it can show red flags if someone attempts to open a credit card or take a loan in your name.
- From the survey, 36% still conduct financial transactions on open, insecure Wi-Fi networks knowing the fact that this makes their activity visible to cyber crooks.
- The survey also conveyed that 30% reuse the same passwords over and over on multiple accounts. If you have trouble remembering passwords, make use of password management tools. They can not only help you keep track of all your passwords but even generate random ones that are difficult for an identity thief to guess.
- Less than 20% requested a credit freeze! A credit freeze is very helpful to protect your financial accounts from identity thieves. It prevents anyone from trying to borrow credit in your name. Although you should not use it if you are planning to buy a house or a car in the near future, as that way, you’ll be frozen out and will not be able to use your money.
As you don’t trust a stranger you meet in public, similarly, don’t trust a stranger online. Never share your digital information with someone who you can’t trust.