Identity Theft Statistics: Information You Must Know

Identity theft is on the rise and can happen to anyone. Prevent this from happening to you by knowing these important facts

That can't happen to me. This is how many people feel about identity theft...until it happens to them. Identity theft is on the rise and can happen to anyone, including you. By knowing some important facts, you can take measures to keep your identity safe.

Identity Theft Facts

Every year, approximately 10 million Americans become identity theft victims. Most of these people discover the theft within the first three months, but 9-18% of victims don't find out for up to four years.

Of these 10 million victims, an average of $1,800 to $14,000 is lost. That's a lot of money. As costly as this is, it isn't the end of the story. In addition to losing this amount of money, the victims spend an average of 840 to 1,300 hours to get their credit report and personal information cleared up.

The most common form of identity theft is checking account fraud, using the stolen identity to open a new credit account or to purchase cell phone service.

The majority of people questioned thought of identity theft as only occurring over the internet; unfortunately, this isn't true. Victims know the thief 43% of the time. Fourteen to 25% of the time, the thefts are done by businesses that have access to their personal information from a former purchase.

Finally, 16% of the time, domestic abuse or harassment leads to the theft. The guilty party steals the identity of the former spouse as a continued means of harassment.

So, where do you turn if your identity is stolen? Surprisingly, the most helpful party was the local police. Once you report the identity theft, the local police file the necessary papers and give instructions to stop further theft from occurring. Credit reporting agencies are the next most responsive.

Where Identity Thieves Strike

Your Mail -- Don't leave mail in your mailbox overnight - have your mail stopped when you leave town - get a mailbox that locks.

Your Computer-- Use anti-spyware and anti-virus software - encrypt your wireless connection.

Your Trash-- Shred all personal information.

Protect Yourself

Now that you know the facts about identity theft, here's how you can help prevent it from happening to you:

-- Report lost or stolen credit or debit cards as soon as possible.

-- Never give out personal information over the phone.

-- Check your bills and bank statements as soon as you receive them to check for any discrepancies.

-- Don't use "pre-approved" offers.

-- Don't carry your social security card in your wallet.

-- Don't go to the ATM at night and never withdraw money when someone is looking over your shoulder.

-- Keep personal information locked up at home.

There is no sure way of keeping your identity safe, but by knowing these facts and following these precautions, you can definitely make it harder for identity theft to happen to you.

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