Identity theft is everywhere. In the United States alone, over 650,000 cases of identity theft were reported in 2019¹. It also seems that many more cases of identity theft aren’t reported to the authorities, or are caught too late. Each year, identity thieves come up with increasingly deceptive scams and schemes to steal citizen’s information. So it is extremely important that one stays on guard and takes steps to safeguard their personal information, either individually or by enlisting the help of an identity theft protection company.
Identity theft occurs when someone deliberately steals someone’s personal information, such as the name, address, passwords, or social security number. The thief then uses this information to obtain credit cards, open new accounts, file fraudulent tax returns, and make insurance claims in their name. The worst part is, one may not even find out that someone stole their identity until years later, when a loan they are trying to apply for gets unexpectedly denied. Don’t wait until this occurs. Find out if there is possibility of being susceptible to identity theft and take the steps to avoid it.
Is Everyone Vulnerable?
According to the US government website, children and senior citizens are the most vulnerable to identity theft². Seniors are especially susceptible to it because they frequently give out information to a number of different people and environments – doctors’ offices, caregivers, advisors, and insurance agents. Unfortunately, many elderly citizens become the targets of identity theft scams, which often exploit their trust in doctors or concern for relatives to gain access to personal details. An easy way to protect oneself against identity theft is to enlist the help of an identity theft protection company, which will help one protect their personal information and may provide one with legal assistance. Even without the guidance of one of these companies, there are a few steps that one can take on their own to remain safe.
3 Ways to Avoid Identity Theft
- Be careful when Purchasing online
Make sure to purchase from a reliable and legitimate store. One way to do this is to check the URL of an online store for any typos or misspelled words. Many scammers try to make their website resemble the real thing with subtle changes, so, for example, if the URL says Amaazon instead of Amazon, one should definitely close the browser and avoid making any purchase or submitting their credit card information. One way to find a trusted website is by searching it on The Better Business Bureau® website, which grades websites based on their trustworthiness³. Good practice is to only order from stores that have trustworthy grades.
- Clearly Monitor Bank Statements
Take time every month to go through every credit card and bank statements. Check that every charge, no matter how small, was made individually or familiar. If any charge or withdrawal is unfamiliar, ensure to get in touch with the bank or the seller immediately and have them investigate. Even if an unrecognized charge is tiny, it is important that the bank checks it as soon as possible. If one doesn’t act quickly, the next charge may not be so inconsequential.
- Protect Social Security Numbers and Passwords
Individual social security number is a vital part of everyone’s identity, and it must be safeguarded. Do not write down personal social security number or carry it in a wallet or phone, and never send private details over public wifi or through a non-safe website. If there is need to provide confidential numbers over the phone, make sure to speak to a licensed representative and be sure that no stranger is close by who might be able to listen in on the call.
The same goes for private passwords. Never write down passwords or reveal them to anyone. Use a different password for each account, and make sure to use complicated passwords that use a variety of numbers, letters, and symbols that cannot be easily guessed.
Warning Signs of Identity Theft
If one is worried that someone may have stolen their identity, there are a few ways to check⁴.
- One has been billed by a medical provider but they haven’t used their service.
- There are unexpected charges to the credit card or withdrawals from the bank account.
- Bills or other mail that were expected to arrive never did.
- Debt collectors inform one of debts that are not theirs.
- The credit report shows an unclear account or charge.
- The IRS sends one a notice to inform one that more than one tax return was filed in their name.
It is important to note that not all cases of identity theft will leave clues as those listed above. An identity theft protection company may be suitably equipped to monitor and predict a potential breach in such data.
It doesn’t matter how careful one is with their personal information, identity theft can occur to anyone, in any number of ways. Even so, it is crucial to stay alert and catch any potential sign of identity theft as soon as they can. If one is worried that they cannot protect against identity theft on their own, one should see if there is an identity theft protection company near them that might be able to help. One can never be too cautious when it comes to safeguarding personal identity.
 Federal Trade Commission. “Fraud and ID Theft Maps.” 7 February 2020. https://public.tableau.com/profile/federal.trade.commission#!/vizhome/FraudandIDTheftMaps/IDTheftbyState
 USA.gov. “Identity Theft.” 5 March 2020. https://www.usa.gov/identity-theft
 Better Business Bureau. 2020. https://www.bbb.org/
 Federal Trade Commission. “Warning Signs of Identity Theft.” Accessed 30 March 2020. https://www.identitytheft.gov/warning-signs-of-identity-theft