Properly protecting your identity is important for everyone to keep in mind. The holiday season can be an especially susceptible time for information leaks, as shoppers purchase gifts online more frequently each year. The pandemic has only exacerbated this concern, as more traffic online means opportunities to steal your personal information.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that over $5.8 billion dollarswere lost to fraud in 2021, an increase of more than an astonishing 70% from the prior year. Additionally, the FTC received almost 3 million fraud reports from consumers in 2021, with the most reported categories being imposter scams and online shopping scams.
Interested in creating safer habits online? Consider these tips:
- Do not give out personal information over the phone or the Internet unless you know it is going to a secure recipient.
- Identity thieves may pose as employees of your bank or the Government to gain access to your personal information.
- Do not include revealing personal details, such as your social security number or birthdate, in any of your account passwords.
- Monitor your bills and verify that the listed charges are legitimate.
- Review the privacy policies of companies you associate with.
- This will help you gain an understanding of exactly where your personal information is going and what it is being used for.
Despite online identity theft becoming most prevalent, your identity can be stolen in many different ways in your everyday life. If you are out of the home, consider these tips to help keep yourself safe:
- Exercise caution with your PIN when using ATMs or paying for items.
- Closely examine the ATM/card machine for anything that looks out of the ordinary. “Skimming” devices can copy your card information to make unauthorized purchases.
- Beware of pickpockets! Be sure your identification and credit cards are safely secured when out in public.
- Try to minimize what you carry on you, and don’t carry it around if you don’t need it.
All of this information can be helpful in preventing your identity from being stolen. If you fear you may have become a victim of identity theft, visit www.identitytheft.gov for a comprehensive guideline of necessary actions to assist consumers with identity theft issues. Additionally, you can call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338.