Identity Theft Hits Millions

The Federal Trade Commission recently released a survey showing that 8.3 million American adults, or 3.7 percent of the adult population, were victims of identity theft in 2005.

Of the victims, 3.2 million, or 1.4 percent of all adults, experienced misuse of their existing credit card accounts; 3.3 million, or 1.5 percent, experienced misuse of non-credit card accounts; and 1.8 million victims, or 0.8 percent, found that new accounts were opened or other frauds were committed using their personal identifying information.

Eighty-five percent of all ID theft victims reported that one or more of their existing accounts had been misused, including credit card, checking, or savings accounts; telephone service accounts; internet payment accounts; e-mail and other internet accounts; and medical insurance accounts.

The Identity Theft Resource Center, based in San Diego, offers these tips on how to avoid having your identity stolen:

  • Never carry your Social Security card or its number unless you really need it, such as for a job interview.
  • Watch for the timely arrival of monthly statements, bills and any other item that usually comes in the mail.
  • Mail your bills inside the post office, rather than trying to stuff them in an already full mail box out on the sidewalk.
  • While talking on your cell phone, don't share your account numbers where other people can hear you.
  • Keep an eye on your credit card at all times—don't let a clerk or accomplice distract you while it could be swiped through a second scanner that records your information.
  • Keep track of all credit card receipts and shred any you don't need.
  • Shred any documents you don't need that contain bar codes or sensitive data.

Read more on this topic here.