April Fool's Day is all about pranking your friends and family in the hopes of duping them without actually causing any hurt feelings. While the whole goal of the holiday is to create laughter at the expense of your target, eventually the pranked will likely see the humor in the whole experience and not hold it against you — though you may be the victim of retaliation.
While you're likely to be a little more aware of your surroundings on April first — especially if you suspect one of your friends or relatives may be planning a particularly devious April Fool's Day prank — this isn't the only day of the year that you should practice caution with certain activities. This is especially true when it comes to identity theft, as the criminals who may be out to steal your personal identification information are likely hoping that you aren't expecting them to strike.
Identity theft affects millions every year
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 15 million Americans annually fall victim to identity theft, resulting in roughly $50 billion in total financial losses for the victims. This suggests that roughly 7 percent of adults nationwide fall victim to identity theft every year with more than $3,500 in individual financial loss per incident.
Fraud can cost you much more than just a few dollars
You can have your identity stolen any number of ways, whether you are shopping online or paying for gas at the pump. As well, the damage that you may be prone to if your identity gets stolen ranges from a few fraudulent purchases on your stolen credit card — something that in many cases can be contested and reimbursed — to full-fledged impersonation, with a criminal actually opening up accounts in your name and potentially tarnishing your credit report.
Spend wisely to help protect yourself from theft
Be careful 365 days a year with your identity so that you won't risk having your credit score destroyed by an opportunistic thief. When you go shopping online, do your best only to make purchases from websites that are reputable and guarantee security — you can usually tell if a site is secure if there is something like a closed green lock symbol in the URL bar. When you pay for purchases in person, you need to make sure that you keep track of your card at all times and never let it leave your sight if possible.
One way to help you make sure you don't get fooled by an identity thief is to consider investing in the added assistance of an identity monitoring program to alert you to certain activities happening in your name or to your credit. If you discover these may be the work of an identity thief, you can take steps to help keep the crime from going any farther.