Nearly two dozen people become victims of identity theft each minute. It is a serious problem that is on the rise as thieves steal information and use it to their advantage to get quick cash. The victims of this growing problem are left dealing with maxed out credit cards or an overdrawn bank account. You may be surprised to learn how much it is costing consumers in the United States.
How Is It Happening?
It has become easier for hackers to get personal information from the consumers. They often gain access to private information by using spyware, and some of the schemes are more advanced than others. There are thieves who go out of their way to pay for their own website and even make it look like the real deal, but it is only a fraudulent website used to trick people into submitting their personal information. Women and men see that the site looks legitimate and then they trust putting in their information because they think they are purchasing something. However, the hacker gets that information as soon as it is entered into the system and he or she will use it to their own advantage, ultimately ruining the other person’s credit.
There are people who have been tricked by fake anti-virus programs. The programs look like they are real, but they are only designed to steal information. Those who decide they are going to buy the software to keep their computers protected may use their credit card to pay for it. Hackers will then take the credit card information and use it to steal the money of their innocent victims.
Identity theft is happening at local malls as well. There are hackers who are adding magnetic strips to card readers to steal the numbers and details on credit and debit cards. Shoppers are beginning to worry about using these cards to pay for their merchandise. In fact, 10 percent of the consumers who live in the United States have already fallen victim to these horrible schemes.
The Price Victims Pay
You may assume that the banks and credit companies offer to handle cases like these, but it does not always work that way. There are people who do not check their accounts regularly. Those who catch the fraud a little too late are the ones who usually suffer. They could end up having to pay up to $500 just to cover some of the charges made with their credit cards. It is for that reason that everyone should pay close attention to their accounts. Some banks offer to send text messages whenever there is any kind of account activity taking place. It would be wise to sign up for those text message alerts to keep an eye on your own accounts.
Paying hundreds of dollars is one thing, but it does get worse for some people. Hackers who have social security numbers may be able to open all kinds of accounts in the individual’s name. They could apply for loans and literally destroy credit that belongs to someone else. It may take the victim several years to rebuild their credit score and overcome this serious problem.
Ways to Keep Yourself Protected
Limit your online purchases. Storing some of your credit cards on various websites is one of the worst things you could ever do online because it makes it easier for people to get your information and use it. Security breaches can and will happen when companies least expect them. Target and Sony have fallen victim to hackers in the past, so you can imagine it is something that could happen to just about any other company in existence. There were thousands of consumers who had their personal information stolen from those hackers due to the security breaches. In fact, numerous lawsuits have been filed by consumers because of what happened.
Follow some of these additional tips to keep yourself protected against identity theft:
- Try using cash as often as you can.
- Head over to the bank to pull your cash out instead of using the ATM.
Avoid using your credit or debit card at gas stations where the card readers are located outside instead of inside the store. Those particular card readers are easier to target because they are not monitored as often.
- Avoid using ATMs that are located outside of an establishment.
Check your accounts daily from your computer or phone. It should only take you a few minutes to login and make sure there is no unusual activity going on.
- Create an account on a free credit report website to receive updates on all of your credit cards at once.
- Invest in a paper shredder. Use it to quickly get rid of any important documents that contain your private information.
Being cautious could end up helping you out in the long run because then you would notice if there was something suspicious going on right away.
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Taking Action If It Happens To You
Most people worry that it could happen to them. Identity theft is something that happens to people of all ages, so you should never assume that you are completely safe. There are a few steps you can take if you think you are the victim of identity theft.
Start by contacting your bank and all of the credit companies. Let them know what is going on. Make them aware of any transactions that may have been made under your name without your permission. Cancel all of the cards you have and order replacements. The replacements will come with new numbers and CVV codes.
Ask the banks and credit companies about loss protection. Each one may offer some form of protection so you do not end up losing a lot of your money. You may even want to make a request to have a fraud alert flag added to your accounts. The creditors will have a warning that there may be someone else using your information.
Millions of people have their identities stolen by hackers each year. The victims of the theft often end up paying close to $500, but some end up paying way more than that because of what the hackers have done to them. Money is not the only thing they lose out on. The victims also lose out on a sense of security because they know someone is out there who has their private information.