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Identity Theft Top Consumer Concern

identity theft

New study says bank fraud, Identity theft top consumers’ concerns

When U.S. consumers were asked to rate their biggest fears in a recent survey, becoming the victim of a terrorist attack and even their own death or that of a loved one didn’t rank as their top worry.

Identity theft and banking fraud were their No. 1 concerns. Forty-four percent of those surveyed rated those as their primary fear, compared to 22 percent, who listed the death of themselves or a loved one, and 18 percent, who selected being a terrorist attack victim.

The FICO survey, released in July, surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers over the age of 17.

“Human beings hate to lose,” said Bob Shiflet, vice president of FICO’s fraud business line, in a press release. “… The loss of your personal information or money from your account cuts deep, it is a violation, and people now know it’s much more likely to happen to them.”

Indeed, identity theft is a growing threat. The crime hit a record high in 2016 with 15.4 million U.S. victims, according to Javelin Strategy & Research’s 2017 Identity Fraud Study. Con artists stole nearly $16 billion that year.

When it comes to identify theft and bank fraud, consumers in the FICO survey were primarily worried about three areas:

  • 86 percent of consumers said they were fearful that somebody would steal their Social Security number;
  • 76 percent worried the wrong person would get access to their bank account;
  • and 58 percent were anxious somebody would take their credit card information.

But there are steps that you can take to protect yourself from theft in these areas. Here are some common sense fraud protection practices:

Social Security Number

The theft of your Social Security number can make you particularly vulnerable. With the number, fraudsters can find other personal information about you. They also can use it to open credit accounts in your name so they can spend the money and not pay off the debt, hurting your own credit rating and causing all kinds of headaches.

The Social Security Administration says it’s critical that you keep your number confidential. It’s likely you’ll need to share your number with your banking institution and employer, otherwise, before you provide the number, always ask why it’s needed, how it will be used and what happens if you refuse. Never carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Keep it at home in a safe place.

Bank Accounts

When scam artists get access to your bank account information, they can quickly drain your account. An article in U.S. News & World Report recommends that consumers monitor their accounts on a regular basis, change passwords regularly, ensure they are looking at their online accounts from a secure location and other steps to keep account information private.

Credit Cards

A dishonest clerk could take a quick picture of your card. Or, somebody could hack into your account. Either way, they can swiftly rack up charges that you’d never be able to pay off.

To protect account numbers, the Federal Trade Commission recommends not giving out the information to anyone on the phone unless you’ve made the call to a company you know is reputable; never signing a blank receipt; reporting any questionable charges to the card issuer; and saving receipts to compare with your statement, among other fraud protection practices.

Sadly, securing your personal information isn’t entirely in your hands. As we’ve seen in the news, many businesses, including financial service companies, have suffered major hacks, leaving customers open to attack. But taking steps now to do what you can to protect your own information is a step in the right direction.

The team at CESI is committed to helping you make wise financial decisions and to helping you understand how to get out, and stay out of debt.  For a free debt analysis, contact us and find out how we can help.

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