According to an identity fraud study conducted in 2014 by Javelin Strategy & Research, someone fell prey to an identity thief every two seconds in the United States in 2013, an increase of more than 500,000 from 2012. Floridians are particularly vulnerable – in 2013, the Federal Trade Commission reported that Florida has the highest per capita rate for identity theft reports in the nation.
The holiday season is approaching – ‘tis the season for debit/credit card internet purchases, transactions that can place you at great risk for ID theft during the holidays. What’s your hard earned credit worth? You might be surprised to know that hackers are selling the CVV security code off your credit card for as little as $2 and a full identity report for just $3. It’s critically important for each one of us to take steps to protect our information and reduce our chances of becoming ID theft victims.
Enhanced identity theft protection
The best offense is a great defense. A good, strong password should be at least 9 characters and include both upper and lowercases – as well as numbers and symbols, if possible. Don’t use anything that might be linked to you like a name, nickname, middle name, family member name, or pet name. Use something obscure, ideally it’s not even a real word. If it’s hard for you to commit to memory, write it down, instead of typing or saving it, and keep it somewhere in your home. Purchase enhanced identity theft coverage from a reputable company. Identity theft protection policies are generally inexpensive. For $25 dollars a year, Security First Insurance offers its customers fraud monitoring, internet identity monitoring, criminal identity monitoring, lost wallet service and postal junk mail reduction service, in addition to restoration service and identity fraud expense coverages in the event that your identity is stolen.
Pay attention. We tend to let our guard down as we look for the perfect gifts that help us share the joy of the season – forgetting that there are grinches out there who want to steal our identity! When making purchases in stores, be aware of your surroundings. Check over your shoulder when entering pin numbers or CVV codes. Shred your receipts, don’t just toss them away. Check your account balances and financial statements daily, and take notice if you are missing a financial statement: low-tech, snail mail options are still high on ID thieves’ radar. Look out for skimmers at ATMs and gas pumps.
The vulnerability of personal data is an ongoing concern with no end in sight. ID theft protection is possible – and worth the extra time and effort to help prevent the headache (and wallet-ache) that comes along with becoming the victim of identity fraud!