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How to protect yourself from identity theft

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) — Prices aren’t the only thing surging as people face inflation at over 40-year highs. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the number of reported cases of identity theft more than doubled from 2019 to 2020.

As the saying goes, it’s not a question of ‘if’ you will face identity theft in your lifetime, but ‘when’. Someone obtains personal or financial information from an individual and uses that information for their economic gain.

Victims often end up not only feeling vulnerable, but can also suffer damage to their creditworthiness, their finances, and sometimes their reputation.

“Identity theft has always been a problem, but it’s skyrocketed in the last few years,” said Nick VinZant, senior research analyst and insurance expert at QuoteWizard.

After battling pandemic problems and now record-breaking inflation, it has exploded.

Key Results for Indiana:

  • Identity theft in Indiana is up 170% since the pandemic began
  • Already this year, 3,179 identity thefts were reported in Indiana
  • 47 identity thefts per 100,000, the 29th highest rate nationwide

Key results for Kentucky:

  • Already this year, 1,517 identity thefts were reported in Kentucky
  • 34 identity thefts per 100,000, the 39th highest rate nationwide
  • Bank and government documents are the fastest growing types of identity theft

National key results:

  • Already this year 280,000 identity thefts were reported
  • 396% rise in identity theft in some states
  • Louisiana, Kansas, and Delaware saw the highest increases in identity theft
  • Bank and government documents are the fastest growing types of identity theft

“It’s really the result of more opportunities for criminals and criminals to come in and take advantage of the situation,” VinZant said.

The Federal Trade Commission said scammers were taking advantage of COVID-19 relief payments for individuals and businesses, and the rise in e-commerce was exposing more people to fraud as more personal information was shared online.

“Criminals just had more opportunities to steal people’s identities, and they’ve been doing that for the past three years,” VinZant said.

Some of the most common tactics they use to steal your data and hard-earned cash are:

  • Unsafe websites
  • Phishing, in which a fraudulent email or message that appears to be from a legitimate source can trick a person into giving away their important, confidential information.
  • Hacking, where thieves break into a person’s digital devices and networks to gain access to their information and money.
  • Shoulder surfing, where someone looks directly over a person’s shoulder for important information such as an ATM PIN, access code, or credit card number.
  • Skimming, in which illegally installed devices automatically download a person’s confidential information.
  • Dumpster diving, where documents a person throws away can give thieves exactly what they need.
  • Mail theft, in which thieves not only steal confidential information from your house, but sometimes take it directly from the blue collective mailboxes.

“These scams that criminals use are constantly evolving,” VinZant said. “There’s always something new.”

Here are some ways you can be proactive about protecting identity:

  • Use two-factor authentication
  • Protect devices with a password
  • Use a password manager to keep up with unique passwords for each account
  • Never give out personal information over the phone, in a text message, or in an email
  • Check the credit report regularly
  • shred documents

“Sometimes these can start out as a drip and turn into a flood,” VinZant said.

Another tip is freezing loans. People are allowed to freeze and unfreeze their credit reports for free if needed.

Contact Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion for a free fraud alert. When a victim alerts one of the credit unions, they alert the other two. A fraud alert can be active for up to seven years.

QuoteWizard’s report on the worrying rise in identity theft and information on how people can protect themselves is available by clicking or typing here.

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WAVE – NBC affiliate of Louisville and Southern Indiana. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @wave3news.(WAVE)

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