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Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Identity Theft

Credit cards and lock: The Ultimate Guide to Identity TheftAccording to the FTC, in 2014 19 people become victims of identity theft every minute. And that number has only risen since then. Now more than ever it’s important to keep yourself protected from hackers and other potential data breaches. Because protecting your identity is such a critical service, we’ve dedicated our time to learning as much as we can about identity theft so we can share our findings with you. We pride ourselves on being experts in this category, so we’ve created this overview page to try and help you understand the ins and outs involved in effectively protecting your identity and how to do so easily and affordably. Use the menu below to jump to the section that interests you or keep scrolling to read it all.

Identity Theft 101

In the most basic definition, Identity theft is an act of crime where a person abuses someone else’s personal information resulting in deception or fraud, most commonly for money but also for other things. There are a few different types of identity theft and each can harm you differently.  Find out more about the nuts and bolts of identity theft in our article What is Identity Theft?

Types of Identity Theft

  • Financial Identity Theft – This type of theft includes using your social security number, driver’s license number, bank account number and/or checking account number to apply for credit cards, loans or pay for items without your doing. Obvious consequences of this type of theft are financial loss and a negative impact on your credit history.
  • Medical Identity Theft – Medical ID theft occurs when your social security number, medical record ID and/or date of birth is used to have expensive procedures, surgeries and/or file false liability, disability or workman’s comp claims. This can result in thousands of dollars worth of bills and worse yet damage your medical history.
  • Criminal or Character Identity Theft – This happens when someone commits a crime and poses as you using your ID, date of birth and/or social security. Your criminal record could be affected causing you to not pass background checks and/or get a job.

Luckily, there are penalties for ID theft. These vary by state but can include up to 15 years imprisonment and large fines. Despite this, ID theft continues to rise.

How Does Identity Theft Happen?

There are a number of ways that thieves can take advantage of your personal info and data. The most common ways it happens are through:

  • Wallet Theft – Someone pick pockets or gets a hold of your lost wallet.
  • Mail Theft – Easy for thieves, especially since most people in residential neighborhoods do not have locks on their mailboxes.
  • Dumpster Diving – We’re all guilty of throwing away old bank statements and/or credit card applications with our personal info on them.
  • Phone Scams – Ever get a call from someone posing as a company or governmental organization and asking, or worse, demanding your personal info? Nope, that’s not the IRS calling, that’s a scam!
  • Personal Theft – It can happen to the best of us when your long lost cousin or uncle Joe is desperate and takes advantage of you.

There are more sophisticated ways for advanced cyber thieves to snatch your data including Phishing, Spoofing, Spyware and Malware which you can read more about in our How Identity Theft Happens article.

Identity Theft Statistics

Don’t believe ID theft could happen to you? Check out our article Seven Alarming ID Theft Statistics that will make you realize how extremely common it actually is.

How Do You Know If Someone Stole Your Identity?

Here are some red flags to look for:

  • Unknown charges appear on your credit or debit card statements.
  • You get a credit card statement or a new card in the mail that you didn’t apply for.
  • Your bank account balance is slowly declining without your knowledge of withdrawals.
  • You stop receiving your bills or other mail.
  • You’re declined by merchants from credit, debit cards and checks, or from getting a loan.
  • You receive collection notices or calls for debt that you haven’t incurred.
  • A medical bill is sent to you for unknown services.

Want the whole list? Check out our How to Know if Someone Stole Your Identity article.

What To Do If You’re A Victim of Identity Theft

What happens if someone steals your identity? First and foremost, report it to the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov. In addition you can do the following:

  • Contact the financial institutions to lock down your accounts.
  • Request copies of your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).
  • Place a credit freeze and fraud alert on your credit reports.
  • Contact your local police department.

Read our How to Report Identity Theft article for complete details and to make sure you’ve covered your bases.

Preventing Identity Theft: ID Theft Protection Services

The best way to prevent becoming a victim of identity theft is to stop it before it starts by proactively having a service monitor it for you. These identity theft protection services not only alert you when something suspicious happens but also reimburse you for some incidents.

There are dozens of ID theft prevention services on the market. It can be time-consuming and overwhelming to sift through them all, so we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. We’ve taken our findings and put them into a comprehensive, detailed guide. In our Best Identity Theft Services guide, we provide winners, pros and cons, pricing, features and more. And we update it regularly so you can rest assured you’ll be getting the latest and most relevant information.

Comparing Identity Theft Services Side by Side

Identity Theft Comparison TableSince there are so many identity theft services to choose from, we’ve also put their critical information like pricing, customer service reputation, coverage and more in once place so you can stack each company up against one another in our Identity Theft Comparison Table. After learning more about each company and narrowing down your favorites, you can sign up using the link in the respective review (as most of our top rated companies offer free, no risk trials so you can see which you like best).

Why Trust Our Reviews?

Our independent writers conduct our reviews in an unbiased fashion by doing rigorous research and gathering reader and consumer feedback from various sources around the web. Check out our Review Process for details.

Is Identity Theft Protection Worth It?

After reading this article, hopefully you’re convinced to make the investment. But if you are still on the fence to justify whether it’s worth it then let us put your mind at ease! Watch this video to see how common identity theft is and how much it can cost you to be protected vs end up as a victim.

The monthly price for identity theft is minimal compared to the potential loss in your personal assets, finances, and not to mention time spent recovering all your personal data.

Give identity theft a try (our top 3 picks all offer free trials) and you’ll see for yourself how easy it is to get started. And of course, we’re here to help with your questions. Just comment on any of the articles on our site that relate to the topic of your question.

Latest Data Breach News

Unfortunately, there are constantly security breaches happening all the time by major retailers, credit card companies and other organizations. We’ve compiled them all in one place for you to stay up to date with our Latest Data Breach News article, including whether you yourself might be affected by the breach and what you can do about it.

Have Questions?

Thanks for reading! Now hopefully you’ve gained some valuable insights about identity theft and see the value in it to protect yourself. If you still have any concerns, we’re here to answer any questions as we are always looking to help and be a resource for our readers to empower you to make the best decisions. So if you come across something you need clarification on or would like us to dive deeper into, feel free to leave us a comment on the respective article you were reading, or Post a Reader Question. Our community and writers will do their best to help you out!