Take Steps Now to Prevent Identity Theft
At Raymond James, ensuring your privacy is a top priority. We devote extensive technological and human resources to protecting the information you entrust to us. But we want our clients and their families to be able to protect themselves, too. That’s why we’re working to educate consumers about guarding their valuable personal and financial information against fraudulent use. It’s simply part of our commitment to helping individuals and families be financially secure and independent, both now and in the future.
The More You Know About Identity Theft, the Better You Can Protect Yourself.
By definition, identity theft is the use, or attempted use, of an account or identifying information without the owner’s permission. Normally, it involves stealing an individual’s personal information and using it illegally for financial gain or other fraudulent purposes.
How Big is the Problem?
Statistics About Identity Theft and Fraud
Almost anyone can be a target of identity theft. This year alone, approximately 9 million US adults—or 4% of the U.S. population—will be victims of identity theft and identity fraud (the illegal use of stolen information).
The Better Business Bureau recently sponsored a study of identity fraud in the U.S. The study revealed that:
- The total one-year cost of ID fraud in the U.S. was $56.6 billion, averaging almost $6,400 per case.
- Average out-of-pocket cost for ID theft victims was $422, but 68% of victims incurred no out-of-pocket expenses at all.
- Victims spent an average of 40 hours resolving ID fraud issues.
- 36% of victims were able to identify the person who misused their information. Among those cases, almost half were perpetrated by someone known to the victim.
- Almost half of the identity fraud cases were detected by the victims themselves.
- 47% of victims were able to identify the source of the information theft.
- Internet use accounted for less than 10% of ID fraud cases. In fact, the study concluded that Internet use can lead to lower damages and faster detection.
- Adults 65+ had the lowest rate of identity fraud; adults 25-34 the highest
How does identity theft work?
Identity thieves traffic in personal information including:
- Your name, address, phone number, and date of birth
- Bank account, Social Security, PIN and credit card numbers
- Other personal information that can be used to access your protected bank accounts, online shopping accounts, credit card accounts and others. For example, you might use your mother’s maiden name, pet’s name, or children’s names or birthdays as passwords or access codes.
Your personal information can be stolen in a variety of ways.
Tactics range from simply snatching your wallet or purse to stealing documents from your trash or watching you enter numbers at an ATM or checkout counter. Another strategy is to contact you by phone, misrepresent who’s calling, and get you to give out personal information.
More sophisticated and often large-scale methods involve:
- Hacking into large computer systems and capturing personal data from accounts.
- Distributing massive spams that prompt recipients to send personal information in order to prevent some false danger or obtain a false benefit.
- Creating bogus Websites to get users to enter account numbers or passwords.
Once thieves have obtained your personal information, they can use it to:
- Make purchases using stolen credit card numbers, or open new bank accounts and write bad checks on them.
- Create new credit lines for loans, credit card accounts, or phone service, and then not pay the bills.
- Drain your bank account through counterfeit checks, stolen credit/debit cards or fraudulent electronic transfers.
- File bankruptcy in your name to avoid paying debts or being evicted.
- Assume a new identity –yours– to avoid being prosecuted for crimes.
What can I do to avoid it?
Simple steps can help you avoid becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud.
You have more weapons against identity theft than you may think. Being aware of the threat and exercising common sense are two of the most important.
Recognize that your personal information is valuable to thieves, and make protecting it part of your normal routine at home, at work, at locations where you do business, on vacation—everywhere.
- Keep all personal information, including passwords and account numbers, securely hidden in your home.
- Secure your purse or wallet at work and elsewhere.
- Make sure no one is lingering nearby before you give personal information over the phone or in person, or enter it into an ATM or other device.
- Use only secure mailboxes for incoming and outgoing mail.
- Shred personal documents before discarding.
- Ask about security procedures of companies with whom you do business.
- Carry your Social Security card with you. When you go out, carry only those credit cards you need.
- Give out your Social Security number, account numbers, passwords or any other private information in response to e-mail, phone or in-person requests from sources you don’t know.
- Enter personal information on Websites you don’t know to be legitimate and secure.
Important note: Children and teenagers can be targets of identity thieves, too. In fact, they make particularly attractive victims because their non-existent credit records are completely unblemished. In addition, it may take months or even years for the theft of a young person’s identity to be discovered. So it’s essential for parents to:
- Be on the lookout for any evidence of misuse of a child’s Social Security, bank account, or credit card number or any other personal financial information.
- Teach children and teens to take basic precautions against revealing personal information.
- Make sure any computer the child is using is secure.