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Stories of frustration, time lost, effort spent and money down the tubes because of this crime are ubiquitous – and apparently weighing on the minds of Americans. Many identity thieves steal personal information off of financial documents and paperwork they find in dumpsters or other places where these documents have been carelessly disposed. An identity thief can use your Social Security Number to open a credit card, obtain government benefits or even get a job.  To prevent this from happening, don’t carry your SSN card with you in your wallet or purse, and only give out your SSN when absolutely necessary. Some companies use your Social Security Number to identify you when you call them, but in most cases, you can request that they use another piece of information instead. Checking your credit report regularly can give you early warning that your identity has been stolen.
To limit damage in the case that your identity is stolen, check your credit report on a regular basis. To protect yourself from phishing, avoid replying to emails that ask for personal information, don’t click on links or download files in unsolicited emails, and use anti-spyware or anti-virus software. Using obvious passwords for your online accounts makes it much easier for eager identity thieves to steal your personal information.
There’s no way to completely protect against identity theft, but by increasing your level of awareness and being more vigilant with your personal information, you can minimize your risk. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft has been the top consumer complaint for 15 consecutive years.
Unfortunately, as the digital age unfolds, hackers and cybercriminals are developing more sophisticated ways to gain access to the personal information of victims, and identity theft has become an even larger problem.
Big-name victims of data breaches in recent years include eBay, Home Depot and JP Morgan Chase. The large majority of identity thefts are financially motivated, but there is a major imbalance between the market value of stolen data and the ultimate financial impact on the victim.

Stolen medical records recently sold for as little as $6.40 apiece, and stolen PayPal and eBay account information sells for as little as $2. While the payoff for criminals may be relatively modest, the victims of identity fraud typically suffer a devastating financial blow.
One of the worst parts about these child-targeted ID thefts is that they can go undetected for years until the child applies for his or her first credit card or student loan. Fortunately, there are plenty of identity theft protection services available for an average price of only $18 per month. Only give out your social security number when absolutely necessary and don’t carry your social security card in a purse or wallet. These five simple steps certainly don’t guarantee that your identity is secure, but they are an easy and effective way to begin fighting back against identity thieves. Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes.
In fact, identity theft is Americans’ top-ranked crime concern, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Protect yourself by shredding all documents that contain your personal information before discarding them. Clues that you may be a victim of identity theft include new credit card or loan accounts that you didn’t open, names and addresses that aren’t yours, and multiple credit inquiries from companies with which you’ve never applied or conducted business.
Phishing takes place when a thief pretends to be a company, financial institution or government body and sends you an email requesting your personal information.  Because the email appears “official,” many people willingly submit. If an email asks that you call to update your account or verify information, use the phone number on the back of your financial statements or documents instead of the one in the email. Avoid easy-to-guess passwords like your birth date, birth year, spouse’s name, mother’s maiden name or your Social Security Number.

Avoid carrying them around with you in your wallet or purse, or documenting them on your computer. In addition, there were 1,540 global data breaches in 2014, up a staggering 46% over 2013’s total. Of the 600 stolen personal data listings on the Dark Web ranging from credit card numbers to Social Security numbers to addresses, employer information, income reports and driver’s license numbers, the average asking price for stolen data is only $20.
The United States Department of Justice estimates that identity theft victims typically average losses of nearly $5,000 dollars. Just because a child may not have any significant financial assets doesn’t mean that their identity is not valuable to criminals. If identity thieves can gain access to the social security number and other financial information of children, they can use that information to fraudulently open credit card accounts or apply for loans.
If the latest numbers are any indication, the stolen personal data market is larger than ever, and the threat of identity theft is not going away anytime soon. Two in three adults in the United States worry about identity theft – more than car theft, home burglary, sexual assault or murder. Or if you prefer that someone else does the monitoring for you, sign up for a credit monitoring service that will alert you when important changes are posted to your credit profile.
Instead, pick more sophisticated passwords that use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and characters. In addition to the monetary losses, the time and emotional distress involved in sorting out the aftermath of identity theft also takes its toll on victims.

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