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What Is Identity Theft?

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Cyber-criminals are taking the world by storm, hacking millions of people’s accounts and lives each year. They are taking our money, destroying our reputations and even worse, stealing our identities. How do we stop this? Safe Smart Living is determined to give you all the information you need to know about identity theft. We conduct thorough research and test out services to bring you unbiased information.

If you’ve already had an unfortunate identity theft experience and you’re ready to take steps to protect your identity, visit our identity theft protections reviews page. It has tons of information and side by side comparisons of all the companies we’ve reviewed. The box to the right contains a sneak preview of our top rated identity protection companies.

Do I Need Identity Theft Protection?

If you’re unsure as to whether or not you need identity protection, you’ll want to educate yourself with some background knowledge on the subject. Knowing the answers to these questions will help you know what you’re looking for. You’ll discover what the key components are to identity theft protection and what all it entails.

  1. What is identity theft?
  2. Facts about identity theft
  3. How to protect yourself from identity theft
  4. What are my options?
  5. How much does it cost?
  6. Are contracts required?
  7. What happens if my identity is stolen?
  8. What is the best identity theft protection?

1. What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a crime in which someone takes and abuses another person’s personal information in a way that involves deception or fraud, typically for money but can also be used for other things. Penalties for identity theft can vary based on state but a maximum of 15 years imprisonment and large fines are some ways thieves are punished.

2. Facts About Identity Theft

These identity theft statistics show why it is important to take precaution with your privacy.

  • No one is safe from having their identity stolen, not even kids.
  • In 2008, credit card fraud was the most popular form of ID theft1.
  • Identity theft is the fastest growing crime2.
  • Up to 18% of victims take 4 years or more to discover they are victims of identity theft3.
  • Close to 50% of victims have difficulty getting loans or credit because of identity theft3.
  • It takes victims an average of 30 hours to resolve each ID theft crime4.
  • A study found that 32% of victims discovered a person they were related to was responsible for stealing their identity and another 18% were victimized by an in-home employee, neighbor or friend4.
  • Most financial institutions only hold the victim accountable for the first $50 of fraudulent charges4.

3. How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Knowing how to prevent identity theft is critical in our modern society. With so much of our lives online, it’s easier than ever to have your personal information compromised. This video has some helpful tips on things you can do to protect yourself.

Use Caution

Be cautious when giving out your personal information. Don’t give out any of your personal information over the phone.


Be aware of scams. If someone is offering you a limited offer that you must take advantage of now and wants all of your personal data you should probably say “no thank you.”

Check Your Online Financial Accounts

Check your online banking and credit card accounts to see if there have been any unauthorized transactions on your accounts. If you see any, cancel your cards immediately.

Credit Reports

Ask for a credit report periodically to check if there are any accounts in your name that you didn’t open.

Don’t Carry Personal Data with You

Don’t carry extra credit cards, Social Security card, birth certificate or passport. Carrying these items can increase the risk of them being stolen or lost.

Use a Shredder

Shred all credit card offers, bank statements, records and other sensitive information. Using a cross-cut shredder is best.

Password Habits

Use safe passwords. Some of the most common passwords are password, 123456, and abc123. Please DO NOT USE THESE!

4. What Are My Options?

You have tons of options when it comes to purchasing identity theft protection. However, not all of them are the best option. You’ll want the basics covered: social security number, address, bank accounts, credit cards, etc. There will be extras that you aren’t too picky about like the monitoring of registered sex offenders. It’s important that you make a list of these items, so you know what you definitely want monitored. Keep your family in mind as well. It’s important that not only adults are protected but also children. Children’s identities are the easiest to steal because they aren’t checking their credit reports regularly. So be proactive and cover your entire family.

5. How Much Does it Cost?

Identity theft protection can vary on price. The cheapest we found for an adult was $9.99/month, but prices can go up towards $30/month.

6. Are Contracts Required?

Fortunately, there are no contracts for identity theft protection typically. You have the option to pay monthly or yearly for most companies. If you decide to pay yearly you may consider yourself to be in a contract since you’ve already paid for the entire year. But if you want you could cancel your service although you may not get your money back depending on the company.

7. What Happens if My Identity Is Stolen?

Unfortunately, recovering your identity and correcting the information regarding your finances and personal information is much more difficult. It actually takes longer than it took the criminal to commit the crime. That’s why it’s so important to take steps to prevent identity theft before you become a victim. However, if you think you’ve had your identity stolen, act immediately! Read our article about reporting identity theft and contact the Federal Trade Commission to report your situation. You can contact them online or by telephone (1-877-438-4338).

8. What Is the Best Identity Theft Protection?

We’ve done the research and found the best identity theft protection companies. We recommend IdentityForce to those of you looking to take the next step in protecting your identity. IdentityForce offers a plan specific to children (called ChildWatch) and also offers a family plan. They have a great mobile app, so you can view your account on the go as well.

Still Have Questions?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on identity theft protection!

What else confuses you about ID Theft protection services?

Sources: [1] Identity Theft: A Reference Handbook, [2] Fraud Fighter, [3] ID Theft Authority, [4] Transunion

Kimberly researches everything before she buys. She wants to make sure she is getting the best bang for her buck by purchasing the best product/service, which is why she loves her work. She has a degree in Multimedia Journalism and has been researching and writing professionally since 2013 to help consumers make more educated decisions.

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2 Comments on "What Is Identity Theft?"

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My bank called to tell me that there was a strange charge on my card in a city where I don’t live. Is this what I keep hearing about? Identity theft??
I was checking my credit card statement this month when I noticed a suspicious charge of almost $350 from a store in Florida (I live in Oregon and have not traveled out of state in a few months)! I called my credit card company to find out what was going on and to contest the charge. They handled it BUT, why did they not alert me or stop the charge all together when it looked suspicious??! I mean I have not been to Florida for at least 5 years!!! This is very concerning, especially with all the credit frauds going down in the past year or two! I hate that I need to consider it but I am thinking I might sign up for one of these id theft protection companies to stay alerted of these sorts of red flags BEFORE they actually become an issue I have to contest! Has anyone else had any issues like this with their credit card companies? Would Identity Force or Lifelock have caught it?

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