If you’re like many Americans, you’re more anxious than ever about having your identity stolen. In the 2014 Unisys Security Index, technology and services firm Unisys found that 57 percent of Americans rated identity theft as their most worrisome personal threat. Yet just a quarter worried about their physical safety, according to eWeek.
A certain level of concern is healthy, but you don’t want to be distressed unnecessarily — or sitting leisurely when you should be taking action. With that in mind, follow us as we clarify these widely held “truths” about identity theft.
Myth No. 1
Zero liability means there’s not much for me to worry about.
While it’s true that most banks and credit card companies will reimburse you for a small amount, say a few hundred dollars, you may find your claim denied if your losses run into the thousands or if too much time has passed before you reported the problem. Even worse: It can take months — years even — to undo the damage of an identity theft and regain your losses. Many victims are targeted repeatedly, according to the Bureau of Consumer Protection, because stolen information is often traded within a vast web of criminals operating nationally and internationally. The result? A seemingly “simple” case of identity theft can wind up taking a serious psychological, emotional and physical toll on your health.
Myth No. 2
Placing a fraud alert on my credit report is all I need to do after being victimized by an identity theft.
While freezing your credit is a great first step in preventing a thief from opening new accounts in your name, don’t stop there. You’re still exposed to a number of other threats: the emptying of your bank account, check fraud or fraudulent tax returns in your name. To find out the steps you should you take after being victimized, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s easy-to-use checklist, which can also help you monitor your theft recovery progress.
Myth No. 3
Identity theft is only a matter of money.
Wrong. There are other nefarious ways that fraudsters can misuse your personal information. With medical identity theft, for instance, a thief can use your name, Social Security number or Medicare number to buy drugs, obtain medical care or submit fake billing statements in your name. Beyond damaging your credit rating, this type of fraud is potentially life-threatening if incorrect information finds its way into your medical record.
Another common form of identity theft occurs when a thief steals a child’s personal information to obtain a driver’s license or assume the child’s identity when caught in a criminal act. This kind of fraud can go on for a long time without being noticed, and is often perpetrated by someone within the child’s family.
Myth No. 4
It is safe to give your personal information over the phone if the caller ID confirms it’s your bank calling.
It’s never a good idea to provide your personal information to an unsolicited caller over the telephone. Thieves can deceive you by tampering with the caller ID function. To be sure the request is legitimate, hang up and call the bank back at the official number listed on your bank statement or on the Web.
Myth No. 5
Social networking is fun and harmless.
Fun, maybe, but not always harmless! The very nature of social media, which exposes you to a massive pool of users that you don’t know, can make you a target for cybercriminals. Savvy identity thieves lurk on media sites to steal personal information, which they can use to commit fraud. Even if you aren’t active in Facebook or Twitter, your friends and family may be sharing personal information about you. Always keep your profile closed and allow only your friends to view it. Think carefully about who you allow to join your network. For more tips on safe social networking, visit Get Safe Online.
Myth No. 6
To avoid identity theft, I should never shop online.
Let’s face it: Online shopping is convenient, enjoyable and often offers wider selections and great bargains. There’s no need to forsake online shopping entirely. By taking certain precautions, you can significantly reduce your risk of being victimized. Always research an unfamiliar retailer to make sure it’s reputable before doing business online. Before entering credit card payment details on a website, check to make sure a padlock symbol appears in the browser window frame (not on the page itself), and that the Web address begins with “https//” (The “s” stands for secure). Be sure to pay by credit card, which offers better protection in terms of fraud, guarantees, and non-delivery.
If the worst happens, and you do find yourself victimized by identity theft, act quickly before the thief has time to cheat you. Visit consumer.gov for information on how to create an identity theft report. To learn more about security breaches and identity theft, visit our Education Center.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.