Many people believe that becoming a victim of identity theft is rare; however, statistics associated with this crime indicate that most are at immediate risk. Identity theft poses many challenges directly to consumers as criminals that commit these crimes continue to develop brand new mechanisms for engaging in this type of fraud. In the year 2020 alone, the Consumer Sentinel Network – which is officially maintained by the Federal Trade Commission – received nearly 1.5 million complaints for identity theft. In fact, identity theft accounted for a total of 29% of the total complaints received by the network. That accounts for nearly 5 million reports! Based on this statistic alone, you are at immediate risk for becoming the next victim.

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The Numbers

To further expound on the prevalence of identity theft, consider the following numbers associated with this type of crime:

  • It has been estimated that 1 out of every 4 people in the United States alone became a victim of identity theft in the year of 2019.
  • In the United States, 33% of all people over the age of 18 have experienced some type of identity theft. This is more than two times that of the average of experiences worldwide.
  • 1 out of every 5 people that have become victims of identity theft have experienced it more than one time a piece.
  • In the year of 2017, more than 1 million children across the United States became victims of identity theft. As a result, their families spent nearly $600 million in expenses correcting the issue.
  • According to crime analysts, identity theft impacts a new victim once every 2 seconds.
  • 65% of all cases of identity theft occur as a direct result of data breaches.
  • In the year of 2019, approximately 165 million records were exposed. This increased the number of data breaches by 17%.
  • In the year of 2020, consumers experienced a loss of approximately $56 billion, due to identity theft.
  • Since March of 2020, taxpayers within the United States lost about $200 billion in relief for COVID-19 and identity theft associated with unemployment.
  • Since January of 2020, $400 million has been reported as lost by consumers to scams associated with COVID-19 and identity fraud cases.
  • Nearly 78% of all identity theft victims report experiencing high levels of emotional-based distress associated with the crimes committed against them.

Based on these numbers alone, you have an exceptionally high chance of becoming an identity theft victim. Criminals are working smarter, not harder. As a result of this fact, you must do the same. Steps must be taken to protect yourself. Continue reading to learn more about identity theft and the steps that you can take to prevent becoming a victim of this extremely common crime.

What is Identity Theft?

“Identity theft” is a term that is used in a broad manner to describe the act of one stealing personal information and then using that information without obtaining permission. Examples of information that may be stolen include name, date of birth, Social Security number, bank account information, and information that is similar in nature.

Once stolen, the individual or group committing the crime of identity theft will use the information that they have obtained illegally to make some type of purchase, apply for credit, or commit another fraudulent act.

How Does Identity Theft Occur?

In most instances, identity theft occurs because of the sheer nature of the available technologies that are currently available; however, criminals may gain access to your personal information through other means, such as through items obtained through the postal service, or even by obtaining personal information that you discard of through the trash.

In most instances, victims of this crime do not realize that they are a victim until after the crime has already been committed. The following outlines the most popular means in which criminals obtain your personal information:

  1. Unsecure Internet Browsing – Generally speaking, it is relatively safe to browse the websites that are currently available on the internet; however, if you share your information on a website that is not considered to be secure or has already been compromised by those with malicious intent, your information may make its way into the hands of those that wish to commit fraud against you. Always make certain that information is only shared on secure websites. The good news is, most browsers will alert you to a website that is not secure or considered to be risky.
  2. Malware – This is a type of malicious-based software program that is designed to result in complete havoc to those that are subjected to it. If malware makes its way onto your electronic device, criminals may be able to spy on your online activity and/or gain access to your personal information. If you are using the internet – regardless of the means in which you access it – always make certain that you have malware protection in place in order to properly protect yourself.
  3. Mail Theft – Criminals have been combing their way through the mail in order to obtain personal information since years before the internet even existed. Examples of items pulled from mailboxes around the nation include bank statements, credit card statements, and information that is similar in nature. If you receive mail that you consider to be trash, always shred the information before placing it in the trash, as many criminals will comb through garbage in order to find pieces of personal information that may be used for their gain. When possible, opt for digital statements. The less mail you get and the less you throw away, the better.
  4. Hacking of Wi-Fi Connections – If you use any type of public connection that is not considered to be secure, hackers may be able to engage in a sort of eavesdropping on your connection. If you type in passwords, usernames, bank account information, credit card information, and similar forms of information, fraudsters may be able to intercept it and then use it for their own gain, which will result in being your loss.
  5. Skimming Devices – Many criminals will use specially-designed electronic skimming devices. These are typically placed in outdoor locations that are commonly used, such as fuel pumps and ATM machines. Once you swipe or insert your card, the device obtains all of the information from it and it may then store it, transmit it, or both. Immediately thereafter, your information is opened to those wishing to engage in illegal activities – such as unauthorized purchases.
  6. Data Breaches – Many criminals will gain unauthorized access to the data within a company or organization. The information that is typically obtained by fraudsters during a breach includes full names, credit card numbers, as well as Social Security numbers.
  7. Credit Card Theft – One of the easiest ways for criminals to steal your identity is by taking your credit card information. They may steal your actual credit card, obtain its information through a data breach, get it through a skimming device, or through online accounts – such as retail stores – that store credit card information. Once the information from a credit card is stolen, the fraudsters will then use it in order to make purchases that you do not authorize.
  8. Phishing and Spam – Many scammers utilize text messages, emails, and other electronic forms of communication in order to illegally obtain your personal information. In most instances, the communication will appear to be from a reputable source and it will include links that you must click on to enter your personal information. Once you enter that information, the scammer gains immediate access to it and uses it in an unauthorized manner.

How You Will Be Affected by Identity Theft

Once a criminal has your information, they can use it in a number of ways. This includes opening up credit accounts, filing insurance claims, making unauthorized purchases, and selling it. Many may file a fake tax return, access your money accounts and steal the funds located there, and more. Identity theft will often result in financial losses, negatively impact your credit score, and cause you high levels of emotional distress.

Protect Your Identity with IDTheftSmart

There are many ways to protect your identity and many products currently available on the market. One of the best is IDTheftSmart. This program currently costs under $10.00 a month, but it provides many invaluable services. If your identity is stolen, you will be assigned a private investigator that will aid in the investigation and the recovery of your stolen identity. You are provided with many tools and resources that will properly protect your identity. In addition to protecting you, it also protects all members of your family and you just cannot put a price on that.

We here at Somerville Bank currently offer IDTheftSmart to our clients and those in the communities that we serve. Simply visit one of our local branches to enroll immediately. This specially-designed service is designed to protect your identity, detect fraudulent activity, and restore your identity quickly! If you would like to learn more, contact us here at Somerville Bank today to learn more! Access our locations by clicking HERE.