Those are the top actions taken by the 85% of people who reported taking steps to keep their identities safe last year, according to a report by ARAG, a legal insurance company. They asked people about their experiences with identity theft, as well as their feelings about protecting themselves, and the specific actions they take to ensure they don’t become victims of identity theft.
According to ARAG, 17.6 million people ages 16 and over were victims of identity theft in 2014. That’s about seven percent of the population. Identity theft is defined as having your personal information used to open an account, pay for something with a stolen credit or debit card, receive government benefits, or give false information to authorities. By far the most common type of identity theft is having your credit or debit card information stolen and used to make fraudulent charges.
Once people are victims of one type of identity theft, they are more likely to be victims of another type of fraud—so it’s important they don’t let their guard down.
Key findings of the ARAG study include:
• Fifty-two percent of identity theft victims resolved the incident within one day, but 9% reported spending more than a month dealing with the repercussions.
• The most common way to find out your identity has been stolen is being contacted by your financial institution. Forty-five percent of folks found out this way, while 18% noticed the phony charges on their account themselves.
• Most people don’t report identity theft to police. Eighty-seven percent contact their credit card company or bank to report the incident, eight percent contact a credit bureau, and fewer than one in ten people contact the police.
• The most common demographic for identity theft was a white woman earning over $75,000 a year.
• Older people are more vulnerable to identity theft; victims age 65 and up are on the rise, from 2.1 million in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2014.
Things like shielding your personal information when you fill out forms, being careful online, shredding documents, and changing passwords will all help keep your identity safe.
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