Top Causes of Identity Theft? Not the Internet—Yet
Sign up for our FREE Monthly Email Newsletter
In addition to keeping in the financial know, you may be interested in checking your credit score and report.
¹The credit scores provided under the offers described here use the Equifax Credit Score, which is a proprietary credit model developed by Equifax. The Equifax Credit Score and 3-Bureau scores are each based on the Equifax Credit Score model, but calculated using the information in your Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit files. The Equifax Credit Score is intended for your own educational use. It is also commercially available to third parties along with numerous other credit scores and models in the marketplace. Please keep in mind third parties are likely to use a different score when evaluating your creditworthiness. Also, third parties will take into consideration items other than your credit score or information found in your credit file, such as your income.
²The Automatic Fraud Alert feature is made available to consumers by Equifax Information Services LLC and fulfilled on its behalf by Equifax Consumer Services LLC.
³Equifax Credit Report Control™ is only available while you have a current subscription to Equifax Complete Premier. Locking your credit file with Equifax Credit Report Control will prevent access to your Equifax credit file by certain third parties, such as credit grantors or other companies and agencies. Credit Report Control will not prevent access to your credit file at any other credit reporting agency, and will not prevent access to your Equifax credit file by companies like Equifax Personal Solutions which provide you with access to your credit report or credit score or monitor your credit file; Federal, state and local government agencies; companies reviewing your application for employment; companies that have a current account or relationship with you, and collection agencies acting on behalf of those whom you owe; for fraud detection and prevention purposes; and companies that wish to make pre-approved offers of credit or insurance to you. To opt out of such pre-approved offers, visit www.optoutprescreen.com/.
4We will require you to provide your payment information when you sign up and we will immediately charge your card $4.95. After that, we will charge the card $19.95 for each month you continue your subscription. You may cancel at any time; however, we do not provide partial month refunds.
Equifax® is a registered trademark and Equifax Complete™ Premier is a trademark of Equifax, Inc. © 2014, Equifax Inc., Atlanta, Georgia. All rights reserved.
Do you always keep your wallet or purse in a safe place—or do you occasionally misplace it or leave it in the backseat of your car or another vulnerable spot when you are distracted by life’s daily demands? If you said yes to the latter, you are not alone.
Unfortunately, when these everyday essentials are stolen or go missing, identity theft or fraud often follows. Your credit cards, driver’s license, and other personal information enable criminals to commit fraud or crimes, all in your name.
A new study examining the claims made in 2011 by Travelers’ customers insured against identity fraud shows that stolen or misplaced items are still a major cause of these crimes. Of the roughly two-thirds able to pinpoint the source of their identity theft, stolen wallets and pocketbooks topped the list.
Because identity thieves also acquire valuable personal information in less obvious ways—from sorting through trash for bank statements to stealing pre-approved credit card applications from the mail—other customers could not say how their identities were stolen. Often, people are not aware that someone is illegally using their credit or dipping into their bank account until it appears in their monthly statement.
Our study also revealed other common fraud sources. In the number two spot: a stolen or compromised driver’s license, Social Security card, or other form of personal identification. In some instances, thieves accessed this critical information by copying identifying numbers from an employee badge, student ID, or Medicare card, all of which carried the member’s Social Security number.
Not surprisingly, burglaries rated third, followed by cyber-breaches (including Internet scams) and old-fashioned forgeries. According to a separate study released earlier this year by Javelin Strategy & Research, data breaches, which typically expose Social Security, debit, and credit card numbers, are on the rise nationally.
The high cost of identity theft
Identity theft is not rare. Figures released in 2011 by the U.S. Justice Department show that about 8.6 million households experienced some form of identity theft in 2010; the direct cost to households—$13.3 billion.
Compromised Social Security cards, driver’s licenses, or other confidential data can help criminals acquire new debit and credit card accounts in your name—as well as loans, medical services, and tax refunds. Though the financial services industry has imposed tougher safeguards against identity theft, the trove of personal information—birthdates, phone numbers, and so on—shared on social media sites has provided new fodder for criminal imposters.
When payments for fraudulent accounts go unpaid (criminals rarely pick up the tab), your credit score can suffer. It can take considerable time and money to restore it.
How to protect yourself against identity theft
Joe Reynolds is an identity fraud product manager at Travelers.
Equifax maintains this interactive forum for education and information purposes in order to allow individuals to share their relevant knowledge and opinions with other members and visitors. We encourage you to participate in discussions about personal finance issues and other topics of interest to this community, but please read our commenting guidelines first. Equifax reserves the right to monitor postings to the forum and comments will be published at our discretion. Do you have questions or comments about your Equifax credit report or customer-service issues regarding an Equifax product? If so, please contact Equifax directly. All opinions and information expressed or shared in blog comments are solely those of the person submitting the comments, and don't necessarily represent the views of Equifax or its management.