According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 7% of all households in the United States (approximately 8,600,000 households) were affected by identity theft in 2010, resulting in $13,257,487,000 in losses. The largest single contributor to this statistic is stolen credit cards. As most people are aware, this crime has grown in recent years. In 2004, 3% or 3,600,000 households reported being victims of identity theft with an estimated loss of $3,200,000,000.
With the increased propensity for people to shop and bank on-line, clever criminals are constantly finding ways to harvest some of this personal information for their own devious purposes. As much as it may be nice to think so, this type of criminal activity is not solely limited to on-line shoppers, but is also a threat at the ATM, gas station and grocery store.
In spite of this growing trend, there are a number of things that a family or organization can do to minimize their exposure to this type of risk. Some of these may seem like common sense, but a reminder never hurts:
- Keep personal information in a secure location.
- If shopping or banking on-line, only provide personal information on a secure site.
- Check your credit report for suspicious activity (even if you are not in the habit of using credit)
- Always hit “clear” on the key pad after completing an ATM or Debit/Credit transaction.
- You can subscribe a third party to actively monitor the use of your personal information.
Even though these are some good techniques to shop securely, there are others as well. Least effective of all risk management techniques is that of insurance, as it does not respond until after the loss takes place. That being the case, it may not be possible to stop a loss from occurring even when implementing some of the above measures. This is why some Homeowner’s policies and even some Commercial Package policies provide Identity Theft Protection Services.
A note to business owners: Do you collect personal information from your employees, customers or donors? Whether you collect information via your website or otherwise, how is that information secured? In the event of a security breach, could you be held liable? Does your current insurance policy protect you?
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