What is Identity Theft? Why Should I Care?


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Student Editor: Shane D.

Very few people ever give a second thought to identity theft. More often than not, we are overly trusting with our personal information and data. Many of us, for example, have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts with phone numbers and email addresses, all without privacy protection. Few may ever consider this, but social media is just one of the many ways you could become a victim of identity theft and fraud.

Identity theft can best be described as “theft of your personal information”. Thieves steal this sensitive, personal information in the hopes of committing fraud. They may receive tax returns, medical services, employment, or loans fraudulently under your name. Since this information is attached to you, you may be shocked to find a medical bill for services you never received or to find your taxes already filed. It happens to millions of Americans each year, but there are some steps you can take to help protect yourself. 

ID theft

According to the Insurance Information Institute:

“$16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. customers in 2016… In the past six years identity thieves have stolen over $107 billion”

These data breaches can come from even the most trusting companies and agencies. In 2017, numerous companies saw hackers stealing consumers’ personal information, including Equifax, FAFSA, Xbox, and Uber. While we may not be able to prevent these mass attacks on private companies, there are a couple things we can do to help guard ourselves.

  1. Protect your Social Security Number

Avoid keeping your social security card in your wallet and store it in a safe place, away from roommates or thieves. Be wary of giving out your SSN. When applying for jobs, for example, do not give out your SSN on the application.

  1. Be cautious of giving out personal information over the phone, mail, or online

If someone calls, sends you an email, or requests you fill out a form online asking to confirm your personal information, take a second look at the sender to ensure it is valid.

  1. Utilize the privacy settings on social media

Be sure to go into your settings on Facebook and other social media to scale back what personal information is available to the public and to friends. This may be a good time to take a look at what personal information is available there for others to find. Even a phone number or an email coupled with some personal information from photos and posts may be enough to compromise your identity.

While identity theft may seem like a scary topic, there are many little things you can do to limit your chances of becoming a victim yourself. Feel free to check out the link below to get more information on types of identity theft, what to do to protect yourself, and how to react if your identity has been compromised: https://www.usa.gov/identity-theft

If you would like to learn more from our site and even play some games and challenges, please visit consumerjungle.org: /connecting/protecting-yourself/id-theft-resources