According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crime categories, both internationally and domestically. Considering that a thief nets only about $1,500 in an average bank robbery, an identity thief can score many times that, sometimes into the tens of thousands. As an added bonus, there are no guns needed, no risk of being shot, and no worries about a dye pack exploding all over your bag of ill-gotten cash! Identity theft is a crook’s dream come true.
After doing some extensive research into how these vermin operate, I devised a little test to see how vulnerable someone really is. How do you score?
1. After receiving any pre-approved credit card offers in the mail, you simply toss them into the trash can without shredding them. (5 points)
2. You drop off your mail in any open, unlocked mailbox. (5 points)
3. You use your Social Security Number as a form of identification at work, at school, or on your driver’s license. (15 points)
4. You haven’t ordered a copy of your credit report for more than two years. (10 points)
5. You think it’s silly to believe that people actually go through trash in order to find information about your or anyone else. (5 points)
6. You carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet. (20 points)
7. You don’t examine every credit card statement, bank statement or billing statement before paying it. (10 points)
8. Your Social Security number or driver’s license number is pre-printed on your personal checks. (10 points)
9. You don’t shred bank statements, credit card statements, or other financial papers before tossing them in the trash. (10 points)
10. You willingly provide your Social Security number to anyone who asks — without asking why they need it and how your number will be secured. (10 points)
If you scored over 65 points, you’re at high risk for identity theft. If you scored between 35 and 60 points, your odds are somewhat reduced, though they may increase if you have good credit. Identity thieves love victims with good credit. If you scored between 0 and 30 points, congratulations. You apparently understand the dangers and are taking steps to protect yourself.
Here’s the biggest problem with identity theft
With most crimes, the perpetrator is innocent until proven guilty. With identity theft, the victim is guilty until proven innocent … and proving that innocence can become a costly, frustrating, heart-breaking, and maddening venture.
When my identity was stolen, I was just trying to live my life, working day by day, taking care of my own responsibilities. Then, an identity thief decided he was tired of working for a living and used my good credit (that I had built with hard work, tears, and sweat over many years) to live a high life.
But I was fortunate in that I discovered it early. Today, he wouldn’t be able to pull it off. Heck, I can’t even pull it off sometimes because I’ve put so many safeguards on my credit report that it’s difficult to just open a simple savings account. Actually, I get a kick out of knowing that if *I* have a hard time, an identity stealing scumbag would probably just give up!
If I had just one thing to do over again, I would sign up for Equifax credit monitoring BEFORE my identity was stolen. I signed up for it afterward and view it as cheap insurance. Believe me, I never want to go through identity theft ever again.