With the advent of online shopping, bill paying and the phishing scams, the number of identity theft victims reached 13.1 million in 2013, the second highest level on record, according to Javelin Strategy and Research. Close to 100 million additional people have their personal information placed at risk when records maintained in government and corporate data bases are lost or stolen.  Could you be next?

Unless you have a doppelganger, no one should be walking around impersonating you and getting away with it! Identity thieves are less likely to prey on a well- informed individual. The more you know, the less likely you will become a target.

Studies have shown an alarming trend of people whose identity has been stolen. It could someone you know. 32% of identity theft victims discovered a family member or relative was responsible, while another 18% were victimized by a friend, neighbor or in-home employee. Data breaches became more damaging. With one in three people who received a data breach notification letter becoming an identity theft victim.

Some financial institutions such as banks and credit card company’, usually only hold the victim responsible for the first $50 of fraudulent charges (check with your bank or credit card company regarding their policy). Only 28% of identity theft involved credit or financial fraud. While utility, phone, bank and employment fraud made up another 50%.

So, you may be asking, how do I protect myself?

By taking a few minor precautions, you can help minimize your exposure to identity thieves. Even though safeguarding your personal information will NOT guarantee your identity will be safe, it will help greatly decrease your chances of becoming a victim.

1.      Protect your social security number

2.      Use secure passwords

3.      Only carry essential documents with you

4.      Take advantage of free credit reports

5.      Look over your bills and credit card statement

6.      Don’t give out your personal information to unsecure websites

7.      Use firewall, virus and spyware protection

8.      Shred documents that contain sensitive information

9.      Subscribe to a credit monitoring service

10.   Make a list of your credit cards and bank accounts

11.   Keep new checks out of the mail

12.   Opt-in to two factor authentication wherever it is offered

13.   Just say no to social security authentication

Written by Hope Gold.