Identity theft is a major problem.
According to a report from The University of Northern Iowa, there were over 13 million victims in 2013. Even more staggering; there is a new identity theft every 2 seconds! In 2012 twenty one billion dollars was stolen using identity theft.
The consumer (you) is liable for just $50 of unauthorized charges on a credit card. However, money emptied from a checking account is much harder to recover. The average loss in a checking account is $2,000.
Identity theft goes far beyond the cards in your wallet. Thieves can file fake income tax returns with your personal information. In 2013, the IRS issued $4 billion in fraudulent refunds.
Can you imagine trying to convince the IRS that there is a “Fake You” and a “Real You?” On average, identity theft victims spend 175 hours trying to clear up this financial mess.
Here are three ways to help protect yourself.
Check Your Credit Report Often
You can get a copy of your credit report from each of the three major bureaus every 12 months. You can space these out by checking one every four months so that you can check your credit report multiple times.
You can also monitor your credit score using a free credit score checking site.
Safely Pay for Things Online
Be wary when making online transactions. Use something like the paysafecard or a reloadable debit card for protection. By doing this you can control how much money you put on the cards. When you make a purchase just load the desired amount to the card and pay. There will be nothing left for identity thieves to steal.
It can also be a good idea to use credit cards for payment rather than debit cards tied to a checking account since it can take so long to get money put back into a checking account.
Do Not Give Personal Information Via Phone or Email
Just last week I received an email from what appeared to be a company I do business with. Only the email told me I need to provide my bank account number over email instead of logging in and updating my profile.
This isn’t the first time I’ve got an email like this but they normally go straight to my spam folder. This one did not. It was professional sounding and looking and was totally fake. Luckily, I know better than to do something like this.
Be wary of “phishers” if something looks suspicious to you there’s a reason why.
It is so important to keep your information safe! Identity theft is a real problem. You don’t want to spend 175 hours and thousands of dollars in the event of identity theft.