Identity theft has become a growing concern across the United States as one in 23 people are victims of identity theft. According to a 2009 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report, 69% of identity theft events were non-financial, which include medical, insurance, evading the law, government document and benefits fraud, phone or utilities fraud and employment-related fraud. It takes the average identity victim 165 hours and $953.00 to repair the damage done.
When it comes to personal identity theft, a stolen personal laptop or mobile device can lead to a host of legal problems. In addition to accessing your personal data, a criminal who steals your laptop may also gain access your social media accounts or websites and post harmful information posing as you. This could potentially cause libel or defamation claims to be made against you.
Among the most common forms of identity theft has been stolen tax returns, which are sold in black markets on the Internet. It is not restricted within the U.S., either. “Credit card numbers themselves end up being sold in batches of 1,000, 10,000, 100,000 in online underground forums and just being passed around the world,” said Michael DuBose, former chief of the U.S. Justice Department’s computer crime section. Social Security numbers are also sold, added DuBose in an interview with The Associated Press.
Since 1998, 3.6 million personal income tax returns have been hacked, including Social Security numbers and about 387,000 credit and debit card numbers – 16,000 of which were not encrypted. Data from up to 657,000 business filings were also stolen.
These statistics make it important for you to consider a strong and complete protection package that includes a multi-tiered identity protection solution. This solution would have benefits such as identity monitoring and a fully managed identity theft restoration service provided by premier identity technology and security firms. In addition, it is essential to have backup protection for everything of value on your computer, including your documents and files of all types.
Keep in mind that there are steps you can take to reduce the possibility of an incident occurring, including:
- Shred your bills, receipts, statements and other solicitations.
- Keep your checkbook and blank checks in a secure and private location.
- Monitor all your financial accounts on a regular basis.
- Opt out of any pre-approved credit card offers by calling 1-800-5OPTOUT.
- Create a unique password that includes symbols as well as letters and numbers. If you get rid of an old computer, consider using a data wipe utility program.
- Don’t respond to fraudulent emails known as “phishing” that pretend to be your bank, brokerage or cell phone company asking for personal information.