Identity theft, and the fraud associated with it, is a growing problem in the US and across the globe. Out of 2.06 million complaints reported to the Federal Trade Commission, 370,800 were identity theft related. In Texas, the rate of identity theft complaints rose 17% from 2011 to 2012, or 28, 299 up from 24,162.
These numbers don’t represent the real totals though, as most people tend to not find out they’re victims for a while, such as when they apply for a credit card or a home loan. In these instances, the optional identity theft coverage that is available through your home or renter’s insurance policy could be a huge help.
The top 10 US states for identity theft claims are:
- New York
- New Jersey
Texas earned the distinction of having 4 of the top 50 metropolitan areas with the highest number if identity theft complaints including:
- Beaumont / Port Arthur
- Dallas / Fort Worth & Arlington
- Houston / Sugar Land / Baytown
- Killeen / Temple / Fort Hood
The top 5 countries where the identity theft originated from were:
- United States
- United Kingdom
For Texas, the most common types of identity theft are:
- Government documents or benefits fraud
- Credit card fraud
- Phone or utilities fraud
- Employment related fraud
- Bank fraud
- Loan fraud
To help protect against becoming a victim of identity theft, here are 17 actions you can take to prevent that from happening.
- Buy a cross cut or confetti shredder and shred all paper bills (once you’ve paid them) and credit / loan offers
- Have your mail delivered to a post office box or a mail center
- Consider having your bills delivered electronically by email
- Do not carry your social security card with you in your wallet
- Store your social security card in a safe place
- If you still mail some or all of your bills mail them from the nearest post office (use the inside mail slot and not the drive by box outside as these get broken into)
- Review your bank and credit card statements closely each month for anything that looks suspicious
- Password protect your smart phones (according to Symantec in 2011, 54% of all smart phone users do not have a password lock on their phones)
- Do not use the same password for all your accounts (Facebook, Linkedin, email, bank, etc.)
- Change your passwords every 90 days (When did you last change yours?)
- Do not log into your bank or other password protected sites on your smart phone, tablet or laptop if utilizing WIFI at your local coffee shop or café
- Download the app, Find My iPhone (which also works on iPads) so if your device is lost or stolen, you can wipe the data on it once it’s discovered (Android versions are also available)
- Notify your carrier immediately if your cell phone is lost or stolen so it can be deactivated
- Pull your credit report annually and look for any irregularities such as accounts you did not open
- Review your social security benefits data annually
- If your wallet is lost or stolen, report it to your bank, credit card companies, state agency for your driver’s license, etc.
- Download mobile and tablet security software that scans apps for code designed to steal data from your phone or tablet
Taking these 17 steps doesn’t guarantee you won’t be a victim of identity theft, but you may make it hard enough on the thief so they move on to someone who hasn’t taken these steps. Do you have an experience, comment, suggestion or question? Share them with me in the comments section of our blog or on our Facebook and Google + pages. I’d love to hear from you!