First and foremost, monitor your credit regularly. You can do so by viewing our free credit report snapshot , updated every 30 days. You can also get your full credit reports from each major credit bureau once a year by visiting . Scan through your reports and see if there is something on there that you don’t recognize — new credit inquiries you didn’t make, mysterious addresses, new credit accounts you never opened. If there is, you can dispute that line item or account with the credit bureaus. (Not sure how? Here’s a complete guide to disputing errors on your credit report.) You’ll also want to contact the creditor and local authorities (more on this in a few.)
Approximately 15 million United States residents have their identities used fraudulently each year with financial losses totalling upwards of $50 billion.*
On a case-by-case basis, that means approximately 7% of all adults have their identities misused with each instance resulting in approximately $3,500 in losses.
Close to 100 million additional Americans have their personal identifying information placed at risk of identity theft each year when records maintained in government and corporate databases are lost or stolen.
These alarming statistics demonstrate identity theft may be the most frequent, costly and pervasive crime in the United States.
The sophistication level of professional identity thieves involved in organized crime continues to grow along with the methods they develop. From individually tailored phishing and vishing scams, to increasingly successful hacks of corporate and government databases, to elaborate networks of botnets designed to hijack millions of computers without any trace, there is an ever-increasing threat to all Americans.
At the same time, basic methods of identity theft continue unabated. From stealing wallets and purses, to dumpster diving and stealing mail, to the use of pretext and social engineering to deceive customer call centers into releasing personal account information, the original methods of identity theft still work.
As the methods used to perform identity theft expand, so do the types of accounts and services being stolen by identity thieves. Credit, debit, checking and saving accounts are no longer the only targets. Identity fraud has grown to include theft of cell and landline phone service; cable and satellite television service; power, water, gas and electric service; Internet payment service; medical insurance; home mortgages and rental housing; automobile, boat and other forms of financing and loans; and, government benefits. Identity thieves will also use stolen identities to obtain employment and to deceive police when arrested.
Quite simply, every individual or business is vulnerable to attack when it comes to personal or corporate information, products and services.
*Based on a range of information gathered from public and private resources.