Identity theft is a real problem that millions of Americans face on a yearly basis. Not only does identity theft lead to severe intrusion into your personal life, but it can have repercussions on your finances too. According to Daily Finance, in the year 2012, more than $24.7 billion in direct and indirect funds were lost due to identity theft. While identity theft certainly is a common problem, it isn’t uncommon for most Americans to acquire false and misleading information regarding the act. Truly understanding identity theft and its consequences means being fully informed. As a result, below are a few of the most common myths surrounding identity theft so that you are only led by the truth.
- Identity Theft is a Problem that is Easily Fixed
The most common myth about identity theft is that it is a problem that is easily fixed. Victims of identity theft oftentimes are falsely led to believe that restoring their identity and repairing the damage done simply requires fulfilling a few simple steps. On the contrary, identity theft isn’t something that can be readily "repaired."
Rather, the best step that a victim can take is to begin mitigating the damage at the onset of the theft. The Federal Trade Commission identifies several preliminary steps that you should take once you are aware of the theft. These steps include filing an initial fraud report, ordering your credit reports, and creating an identity theft report. You should also take steps to monitor your progress by keeping information about every financial move that takes place.
- Today’s Technology is Completely Safe
Another common misconception is that technology has become so foolproof that it is unlikely that you will be a victim of identity theft when you use it. Despite today’s technological advances, there are still many ways of which identity thieves can get a hold of your information. The most alarming method is known as card "skimming." According to Engaget, a "skimmer" is a piece of technology that is often attached to ATMs and gas pumps that allows identity thieves to record your credit or debit card information when you complete a transaction.
While this is a common method for identity thieves to steal a person’s identity, you can still find a way to mitigate your chances of becoming a victim. The best method is to be aware of the technology you are using. For instance, if the ATM looks a bit off and out of place, then don’t use it.
- Identity Theft Only Means a Monetary Loss
In addition to the above two myths, another common myth is that identity theft only results in a monetary loss. Unfortunately, there are many more consequences to identity theft aside from the loss of money. Trusted ID, a website dedicated to preventing identity theft, points out that the most alarming consequence occurs when the identity thief steals your personal name and information and uses it to their advantage.
For instance, when an identity thief has your personal information and uses it, the thief can cause crimes to be charged against your name. As a result, the criminal can develop a criminal record, leaving you to dispute the charges. In addition to using your identity and racking up a criminal record, the thief can also damage your credit score, make purchases in your name, and even receive medical treatment using your medical health coverage.
- Shopping Online Does Not Make You a Target
Identity thieves don’t’ discriminate between offline and online shoppers. The reality is, identity thieves will target people in the most convenient manner possible. Shopping online makes you just as prone to identity theft as not shopping online. If you do shop online though, there are a number of steps that you can take to reduce your risk of being a victim of online identity theft.
Bank of America points out a few useful recommendations. These recommendations include using strong passwords for all of your accounts, never use your SSN as part or as all of your password, do not open email attachments you are not aware of, and only use your credit card on websites that you trust and have experience using.
Just because identity theft is a serious problem does not mean that you need to be a victim. Now that you are more aware of the truth behind identity theft, you can take the proper precautions to protect yourself from the loss of your most precious asset, which is your identity.