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Identity Theft Protection Guide

In today's digital world, your personal information is constantly at risk of being stolen. Be sure to take proactive steps to avoid identity theft with offline and online vigilance to avoid becoming one of the 1.4 million+ victims of identity theft per year.

Here's what you need to know:

Many people choose their cities and neighborhoods by considering crime rates in the local area. Yet there is one area of life where criminals work around the clock to steal money and peace of mind - identity theft.

The FBI has reported that the total impact of cybercriminal activity tops $10 Billion per year and much of that involves the fraud and theft that occurs when someone's personally identifiable information or PII is stolen.

However, like home security, several ways exist to protect yourself and your family from this pervasive criminal enterprise. Keep reading for an in-depth guide to identifying and preventing identity theft - both online and offline.

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is the unauthorized use of an individual's personally identifiable information, typically for financial gain. Each year one in 20 Americans will have their identity stolen and used in nefarious ways, such as opening new credit or loan accounts, obtaining medical services, or stealing tax refunds.

In today's digital landscape, any of your personal details, including your name, social security number, address, or other personal identifying information, is at risk. Identity theft may cause severe damage to the victim's credit score, financial standing, and personal reputation. While most victims will only see financial issues in the worst-case scenario, victims might be wrongfully apprehended because of criminal activities conducted under their stolen identities.

Types of Identity Theft

The types of identity theft continue to expand as the creativity of identity theft criminals grows. At the core, the kind of theft is based on who the target is or how the information was obtained. Common types of identity theft include:

The list above is in no way comprehensive. Additional types of identity theft and fraud include:

How Common Is Identity Theft?

Personal identity theft is far more common than most people realize. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission reports that every 14 seconds, someone new becomes a victim of this crime, costing Americans billions of dollars each year. As technology continues to evolve, so do identity theft criminals and their innovative ways to steal personal information both online and offline.

Not all types of identity theft are created equal. Unsurprisingly, the most common type - financial - is designed to line the pockets of identity theft criminals. This type of theft is also fast growing, given our increased use of online banking, online shopping, and digital transactions in general. Other types of identity theft, such as medical or criminal, don't happen as often but are still harmful and can leave lasting effects.

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How Does Identity Theft Happen?

Identity theft criminals have many ways they gain access to personal identifying information. Their methods include low-tech and high-tech access points, so ongoing vigilance is essential to protecting your data. Common techniques used by identity thieves include:

Potential Victims of Identity Theft

Everyone is at risk of identity theft, but some people are more vulnerable than others. Factors like age, gender, ethnicity, and income can also influence the risk of identity theft. These include:

Practical Steps to Preventing Identity Theft

While no method guarantees total protection from identity theft and monitoring services often alert you post-event, there are strategies you can use to strengthen your defenses. Here are some steps you can take:

Identity Theft Protection Services

Identity theft protection services such as Aura, ID Shield, LifeLock, and Identity Guard offer helpful hand in defending against people becoming victim to this pervasive crime. When evaluating potential solutions for your protection, be sure to consider the following:

Recovering from Identity Theft

The good news is that recovering from identity theft is possible, and the sooner you detect the fraud, the quicker the recovery process will be.

If you find yourself a victim of identity theft, even with the best identity theft protection in place, it's important to take immediate action. Here are the essential steps to follow when your identity is stolen:

Additional resources

Credit Bureaus:

Identity Theft Organizations:

By utilizing the available resources, you can begin the process of recovering from identity theft and regaining control over your personal information and financial well-being.

So What Now?

Identity theft is an ever-evolving problem affecting millions of individuals annually so constant vigilance - both online and offline - is essential. This guide underlines the importance of understanding the various types of identity theft, how online criminals might exploit your personal information, some prominent identity theft protection services, and what to do should you become a victim of identity theft.

If you're interested in a service to help protect your identity, finances, and personal information, visit our 10 Best Identity Theft Protection providers page to find the solution best for you

While complete immunity from identity theft is never guaranteed, proactive measures like securing your Social Security number, adopting digital wallets, setting up transaction alerts, and regularly checking your credit reports - help safeguard you from dramatic losses from this crime.