ITRC President and CEO Eva Velasquez told the Today Show, “When something is an ever-present part of your life, it can lead to feelings of depression. You feel that there’s no way out and no end to it. We’ve heard from victims who actually compare this to having a disease where they feel that their identity theft issues are in remission, but they’re never fully cured. You can think you’ve taken care of it, and then it pops up again a year or so later.”
The Today Show reported that more than 13 million Americans fell victim to id theft in 2013 alone, and that the problem is only growing. Victims are forced to spend hours on the phone with banking and retail institutions, trying to straighten out the mess that a criminal has made. Even if everything is eventually refunded, the stress and loss of time incurred should not be undervalued.
“People need to understand that anyone can become a victim of this crime - no matter your age or income level,” added Velasquez. “While there are things you can and should do to protect yourself, the reality is, it can happen to you.”
What You Can Do:
There’s no foolproof way to ensure total id theft protection, but there are some things you can do to defend yourself:
- Check your statement: It’s a good habit to check your credit card statement habitually, especially if you use it frequently. Stay on the lookout for foreign transactions. There’s nothing worse than discovering identity theft only after it’s been occurring for a year or more.
- Don’t click on unfamiliar emails: Don’t fall for phishing attacks. Clicking on that suspicious email could trigger your computer to download malware. Simply erase unknown emails without opening them.
- Keep your Social Security number safe: Your Social Security number is extremely valuable information for id thieves to get their hands on, so it’s crucial that you guard this information well. Don’t carry your card, because your wallet might get stolen or you might misplace it. Instead, keep your card in a locked safe. You should also question institutions that ask for your number as part of their records, because some don’t really need it and will defer to you if you would rather keep it confidential. Finally, don’t ever give out your number over the phone or through the internet.
- Protect your computer: Install anti-virus software on your devices to protect yourself from downloadable malware and phishing attacks that could potentially steal your data.
- Shred bills and statements: Thieves aren’t only using digital methods. People are still dumpster diving, so it’s important that you shred old credit card statements, bills and applications.
In the case of identity theft, safe is definitely better than sorry. Take the necessary precautions to secure yourself against becoming a victim. You may even want to register for credit monitoring services that can alert you to certain activities that may indicate fraud.