According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America.1 In 2006 financial institutions estimated identity theft losses of $8 billion dollars. The average victim will spend 175 hours and up to $25,000 to repair the damage resulting from this crime. So what can we do? Knowledge is power, so we will talk about the facts, how to protect yourself, and what to do if this happens to you.
According to Chubb's personal security consultant, Paul Viollis of RCS, one of the biggest identity theft myths is that if you're not famous, you're not a potential target for identity theft.1 That absolutely is not true. In fact, everyone is a target! A common misconception is that if you fly under the radar or lead a low profile life, you will not be a likely target. The reality is that people who intentionally lead low profile lives, may reflect to others as someone with something to protect. One impressive purchase or donation can move that person to the top of the identity theft list. Mr. Viollis goes on to say that many people believe they are safe, simply because they are careful about shredding their bills. Shredding your bills will not keep you safe.
The most vulnerable path for identity theft is how people communicate. Landline and cellular phones, and unencrypted Internet connections, are prime ways for thieves to obtain private information best kept confidential.1
Well, how then do you protect yourself? One needs to be informed and street smart. Additionally, a person can protect themselves by securing their family's communication through an encrypted server and running all calls through Security Operation Centers. If you choose to donate money, do so anonymously, through a different name or through an LLC. Mr. Viollis points out that 80% of identity theft originates through acquaintances whom one doesn't know well.1 Identity theft doesn't always look the same so keep your eyes open when relinquishing sensitive information to on/off site business services, a business consultant, a waiter, store clerk, etc. Running a background check is a wise move for some services.
Besides being street smart, is there anything else I can do? You can buy identity theft protection with your personal homeowners insurance. Make sure that you have adequate coverage and that the deductible isn't too much to handle. Some homeowners insurance companies offer Restoration Service that will help you get back on your feet by walking you through the recovery process. If you are going to pay for this coverage it is important that you choose a company that is going to assist you in every facet of your recovery. That includes, lost monetary values, crippled credit ratings, the replacement of documentation such as birth certificates, social security numbers, drivers licenses, credit cards, accounts and numbers. When your identity has been stolen, it is no easy task to recover and make things right again.1