Identity theft victims have to spend a great deal of time correcting their records.For instance, the Associated Press reported the story of Mark Kim, a 36-year-old tech worker whose identity was compromised as a result of the Target breach last year. Thieves opened accounts in his name at Macy’s and Kohl’s, accumulating $7,000 in charges. It took Mr. Kim seven months to straighten out the situation with the authorities. He spent an entire day in the police station filing a report and countless hours on the phone getting the charges removed by his bank and expunged from his credit report.
Kim wasn’t alone in being victimized as a result of a data breach. According to analysts at Javelin Strategy & Research, one in three Americans whose information was compromised in a security breach actually ended up becoming a victim of fraud last year.
The loss of time and the huge amount of frustration that occurs as a result of id theft is one of the main consequences of the crime, usually even worse than any monetary damages incurred. Victims must work with many organizations before they’ve wiped their slates clean, and this can be a time-intensive experience.
“Although banks often absorb bogus charges, it’s up to victims to clean up their credit histories and recover stolen funds,” the Associated Press explained. “On top of lost time, money and emotional energy, victims face the frustration of rarely seeing anyone pay for the crimes.”
Many security breaches occurred in 2014, and retailers and institutions are working to upgrade their security networks. There were so many security failings that consumers have failed to respond to these incidents as anything overly concerning.
“Disturbingly,” said one member of the Federal Trade Commission, “the news has seemed to desensitize many people to the real risks created each time an event occurs.”
Of course, no one can prevent identity theft, but you can detect it early enough that it might cause you less stress and hassle. The longer a thief uses your information, the more difficult it will be to expunge from your records.
Here are three precautions you can take to help protect your identity:
- Change your passwords: If you’ve recently been involved in any data breach, it would be wise to change your passwords. Only use each password once, and make them long and complicated. Passwords of more than eight characters including numbers and symbols take the longest for cyber-criminals to crack.
- Check your credit card statements: Be sure to check your credit card statements frequently, so you can notify your bank as soon as you notice anything irregular or inaccurate. The sooner you notice these red flags, the sooner you can take the first step toward solving the problem.
- Order your credit report: You can order a free credit report from each of the three U.S. credit bureaus once a year. It’s important to review all three as creditors report information about you to different agencies, depending on who they work with. Search for any incorrect information, like the wrong home address listed. This could be a sign that a thief is rerouting your mail so you won’t detect the crime.
Even these small security measures can make a big difference in your ability to detect identity theft faster. Make sure you’re staying aware so you won’t have to go through the hassle of clearing your credit history of false purchases.