How much do you really know about identity theft? If the answer is “not much,” you should consider yourself lucky. That means you haven’t been a victim — yet.

But it also means you might be even more vulnerable than the average consumer. If you haven’t been reading up and working to protect your identity in a world now so fraught with risk, your luck might just run out any day now.

Data breach and identity theft protection

Before your bank account becomes the next one to take a hit, make sure you know the scope of the problem and take steps to safeguard your online presence. Because if the following facts, figures, and advice aren’t enough to scare you, maybe nothing will convince you to be proactive.

Identity Theft Is on the Rise

Nearly 17 million people were victims of identity theft in 2017, and overall financially losses reached $16.8 billion. That’s billion with a B. Shockingly, even though these statistics are overwhelming — and show no signs of abating — only two-thirds of Americans are concerned about the security of online payments, according to a recent survey. It should be obvious by now: identity theft is an ever-present risk that you must take seriously.

Consumer takeaway: The threat of identity theft is probably not longer a question of “if” but a question of “when.” Take safeguards and protect yourself with both physical and digital security.

Data Breaches Are Incredibly Common

A USA Today article headline says it all: “Your data was probably stolen in a cyberattack in 2018.” The 2017 Equifax breach that exposed the data of 143 million people was among the worst, and cyberattacks increased 32 percent in the first three months of 2018 compared to the same period of the previous year. This means your data may already be in the hands of criminals. The only thing we don’t know is whether or not they can use it to steal your identity. Are you ready to flip that coin?

Consumer takeaway: You can still become a victim even if you didn’t do anything wrong yourself. Change your passwords often because someone might already have your information and will be trying to log into your accounts.

The Unprotected Are the Most Vulnerable

There’s a common joke among hikers in the wilderness. “If a grizzly shows up, I never worry. I don’t have to be faster than the bear — I only have to be faster than you.” Like bears only eating the slowest runners, identity thieves also look for the easiest targets. This is why more and more Americans are turning to identity theft protection services to secure their online presence. While no service can guarantee 100 percent safety, they do offer vigilant monitoring which can catch breaches faster and services like LifeLock also offer help to rectify the situation with tried and true expertise.

Consumer takeaway: Millions of people are now getting started with identity theft protection packages and taking advantage of opportunities like this LifeLock discount. Don’t be the one left unguarded.

Identity theft
photo credit: Jonathan / Flickr

Identity Theft Still Happens in Person

While most instances of identity theft now seem to take place digitally, some criminals are continuing to do things the old fashioned way. One man in Florida, for example, was recently arrested with $9,000 while he was loitering too long around an ATM after using a victim’s bank card to steal money from their account. Websites and apps, it seems, aren’t the only places where you have to be careful.

Consumer takeaway: Yes, you must always watch out when you’re online. But remember to keep watching your wallet as well.

Taking Action to Protect Your Identity

There is something about numbers and real-world headlines that helps drive home a point. Everyone should know just how dangerous identity theft can be. But seeing the dollars and understanding trends can help compel some action.

Remember that ID theft is still on the rise, data breaches are common way you can become a victim, protection services are increasingly popular among savvy consumers, and in-person attacks do still happen.

As GI Joe taught us in the 1980s, knowing is half the battle. So, equipped with all this information, you should feel more confident than ever about the need to harden your physical and virtual security. Now it’s time to take the next step and work on protecting your identity — before it’s too late.