As part of the security industry we have been in the middle of the identity theft issue for years. However, the panic the media created around this crime has far outpaced the real threat.
To boost the numbers of victims, generic credit card fraud was bundled into the same category, and even then the crime rates are declining. We believe this decline is a result of individuals and institutions being more vigilant.
The Issue of Identity Theft is Overblown
Everyday dozens of news articles are published about identity theft and every one includes the phrase “fastest growing crime.” Just this month The Daily Kansan, The San Diego Business Journal, the MetroWest Daily News, the Des Moines Register, KCAX, and WCSH included this phrase in their articles.
Identity Theft Myth #1: ID Theft Cases Are the Fastest Growing Crime
A 2003 FTC survey, reported that 10.1 million U.S. residents were victims of identity theft with $51.4 billion stolen. The next year the BBB reported 9.3 million victims with $52.6 billion in losses. This means that the amount of money stolen is increasing, but the number of victims is down by 800,000.
James Van Dyke, an analyst from Javelin Strategy and Research who performed the survey for the BBB added, “the most extreme forms of identity fraud are pretty rare.”
Identity Theft Myth #2: Most ID Theft is Due to Large, Complex Attacks
The next big myth is that identity theft is the result of data breaches and phishing emails.
Data breaches are rarely the result of a crime ring. Only 0.2% of the names stolen ever end up in the thief’s hands. Data collected from phishing is even more rare since it was exposed years ago.
Real Life Tips for Preventing Identity Theft
Does that mean we can all relax and the threat of identity theft is over? No—but there is no need to lose sleep after every new report of a data breach or waste money on identity theft insurance. It is likely our own diligence keeping these crimes down.
Here are some simple things you should be doing to keep thieves at bay:
Bank online – People who bank online have two advantages over their paper counterparts. They have eliminated the risk of their mail being stolen and they can detect fraud much quicker. How quickly the fraud is detected largely determines how much is stolen.
Shred – You need to shred everything with your name, address and account number. For many people this can be monotonous, so use a home shredding service like Ship ‘n’ Shred or drop off small volumes of paper work at a local shredder to simplify the process.
Secure your mail – Don’t leave your personal information in an unsecured mailbox. Collect your mail as soon as possible when delivered and take your outgoing mail to the post office or another secure location.
Check your credit report – Everyone can order a free copy of their credit report each year. Check it for any discrepancies and close out any accounts that you no longer use.
Remain vigilant – The old advice still holds true. If it sounds too be good to be true, it probably isn’t. Don’t give away your personal information to people who call or send you unsolicited emails.
Stay Vigilant and Keep Your Private Information Safe
The best way to keep your private information safe is to create a plan, stick to it, and perform regular audits on the state of your accounts. Shred Nations can help.
An essential part of protecting your information is shredding physical files before they leave your control. Shred Nations will connect you to a professional shredder in your area and help you find a shredder service to meet your needs.
Call us at (800) 747-3365 or fill out the form on the right for free quotes on secure shredding services near you.