Have you ever been a victim of identity theft? If so, you’re not alone – identity theft is an unfortunate reality that is increasingly prevalent. In 2014, 17.6 million Americans (7 percent of U.S. residents age 16 or older) were victims of identity theft. The consequences can be long-lasting and have serious repercussions. While many victims are able to deal with it quickly, some are forced to spend a month or more resolving the issues caused by identity theft. Even if the problems are resolved, the financial loss can be severe. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), two-thirds of victims lose money as a direct consequence of identity theft, and a small percentage of them can lose hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Identity theft can take many forms. With financial identity theft, it’s often a case of bank accounts or credit cards being accessed and used illegally. For example, the thief may take out cash or max out a credit card. This can have a serious impact on your credit score. Another form of identity theft is when criminals gain access to your Social Security Number and use it illegally – to take out loans or open credit card accounts, for example.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid it. Learn what the signs of identity theft look like, how to best protect yourself from fraud and what to do if you become a victim.