The truth about identity theft

Over the past five years, identity theft has become a growing, nationwide concern annually affecting approximately 10 million Americans. It’s an issue that is difficult to detect until it is too late and hard to understand the impact of until experienced firsthand.

According to the FTC, the recovery process can take an average of 30 hours and thousands of dollars to correct. Identity Finder dispels common misconceptions to educate consumers on how to protect themselves from identity theft.

Myth – I check my credit report once a year and that helps me prevent identity theft.

Fact – While checking credit reports can alert consumers to whether their identity has been stolen, it is not preventative. Monitoring credit reports is a good step to spot unusual activity on financial accounts, but protecting the information that can lead to fraud is also critical.

Myth – I’ve installed anti-virus software on my computer so I don’t need to worry about identity theft.

Fact – Installing an anti-virus program is just one of the steps required to keep a computer safe from identity theft. Additional, preventative measures must be taken to combat today’s sophisticated, multi-pronged attacks including the use of strong passwords, digital shredding of unprotected sensitive data, and frequently updating the operating system.

Myth – I bought a Mac so I’m safe from online identity theft and security risks.

Fact – As Macs have become more popular, more malware has been designed specifically to target those operating systems. Even with fewer viruses, they are still susceptible to web-based attacks and user error. People should not feel comfortable saving personal information on their Macs in an unprotected form.

Myth – My personal data is not at risk because I do not shop on the Internet.

Fact – Shopping online is not the only way to expose credit card data. Other ways thieves access personal information is through peer-to-peer file sharing or simply by stealing a laptop. People tend to forget that many files, such as tax returns and insurance statements, contain their SSNs in clear text.

Myth – I do not use a credit card so I shouldn’t be worried.

Fact – Although stealing credit card information is one of the most common forms of identity theft (28%), it is not the only way an identity can be stolen. Identity theft comes in many other forms, including stealing an online password and committing bank fraud or using an SSN to commit employee fraud.

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