What is Identity Theft & How Does It Happen

Posted by Ray Barry

Identity theft has made headlines all over the world as big-name companies and organizations are attacked by criminals of every variety. From hospital breaches to credit hacks, identity theft examples are everywhere. But not everyone realizes exactly what identity theft means in this day and age. The identity theft definition refers to any time someone uses your information to commit fraud. It can be as simple as someone listing your phone number under the wrong name or as complicated as someone receiving medical services with your insurance information.  

Identity Theft Report

Identity theft statistics may not be fun to read, but they are essential to understanding the true scope of the threat. In 2017, there were around 2.7 million official reports of identity theft and fraud to the Consumer Sentinel Network. These stats were compiled by tracking the complaints that come from both federal and local law enforcers as well as private organizations. All in all, it cost consumers $905 million with the average consumer paying $429 to settle the cases. Of the named types of theft, credit card hacks were number one with new accounts (e.g., bank, credit card, etc.) taking second place. And while identity theft reports have decreased in the past few years, they're by no means low enough to consider the problem solved. 

Simple Steps to Prevent Identity Theft 

Identity theft prevention starts with understanding just how vulnerable your information is. That ATM receipt you tossed in the trash last week? The old insurance policy documents you accidentally left out while at work? These may all seem like relatively harmless things to do until you consider the fact that you're leaving vulnerable information out where anyone can see it. Maybe you trust your coworkers, but you never know who else might be walking through your workplace. Identity theft protection means shedding all of the following:

  • Medical: From your insurance to your test results, shredding your medical information is essential to protecting your physical and financial health. 

  • Financial: Financial data includes credit card statements, utility bills, and old receipts. Anything with your name and a monetary statement needs to be put through the shredder. 
  • Personal: Your address, age, phone number, and birthday can give a criminal a strong starting foundation if they plan to commit identity theft. 

Identity Theft Protection

When you ask yourself "Identity theft, what to do?" there are a number of ways to increase your virtual and physical security. Shredding documents not only frees up more space, but it's also a great way to ensure criminals will move onto their next victim. The key is to expand your definition of what an important document is so that you're not taking any chances. For example, your child's permission slip for the zoo contains your signature. On its own, it may not be very helpful. However, if a thief manages to hack your credit card information, your signature would come in handy if they were going to run a scam or two before anyone caught on. 

Contacting Shred America for Shredding Services

Shred America is dedicated to helping our customers keep their information safe from anyone who might do them harm. Whether you have a month's worth of documents or a decade's, we make sure the documents are destroyed so they can never be used for someone else's gain. We offer everything from one-time shredding to regularly scheduled services. If you want to learn more about what we can do for you, contact us today for a quote

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