Recent­ly, the “Hap­pi­est Place on Earth” wasn’t liv­ing up to its name for many fam­i­lies. For almost a full year, mali­cious soft­ware had been installed on point-of-sale sys­tems at sev­er­al Earl Enter­pris­es restau­rants. This soft­ware then cap­tured deb­it and cred­it card num­bers, expi­ra­tion dates, and card­hold­er names of users pur­chas­ing food at these venues. Iden­ti­ty theft has become too com­mon­place in our day and age and we need to become bet­ter edu­cat­ed on where we are most like­ly to encounter threats as well as ways to avoid becom­ing victims.

How many peo­ple are tru­ly affect­ed by iden­ti­ty theft? Accord­ing to IdentityForce.com, here are some basic numbers:
• In 2017, 6.64 per­cent of con­sumers became vic­tims of iden­ti­ty fraud, or about 1 in 15 people
• That equals 16.7 mil­lion vic­tims last year, an increase of 1 mil­lion from 2016
• Over 1 mil­lion chil­dren in the U.S. were vic­tims of iden­ti­ty theft in 2017, cost­ing fam­i­lies $540 mil­lion in out-of-pock­et expenses
• There’s a new vic­tim of iden­ti­ty theft every 2 seconds
• Iden­ti­ty theft is one of the most com­mon con­se­quences of data breach­es, as 31.7 per­cent of breach vic­tims expe­ri­enced ID theft
• There were 1,579 data breach­es expos­ing 179 mil­lion records last year
• It takes most vic­tims of iden­ti­ty theft 3 months to find out what’s hap­pen­ing, but 16 per­cent don’t find out for 3 years
How do you pro­tect your­self from iden­ti­ty theft? Experts agree that there are sev­er­al basic steps to take to help pre­vent theft from happening.

CHANGE PASSWORDS REGULARLY

If you are any­thing like me, you fre­quent­ly for­get the pass­words you have for the numer­ous online accounts you man­age. One way to man­age those pass­words, and help you remem­ber to change them, is an online pass­word man­ag­er like Last­Pass. Enter the pass­words into this secure account and then you’ll just need to remem­ber one pass­word to access them all. Was there a secu­ri­ty breach at your gym? Just log on to Last­Pass and in one click, you can have a new pass­word for your account and can go along with your day.

AVOID PUTTING PERSONAL INFO ON SOCIAL MEDIA

In an era of “over-shar­ing” you must be cau­tious about giv­ing away per­son­al infor­ma­tion on your social media accounts. Thieves are smart and can mine your accounts for infor­ma­tion. When you post about being out on vaca­tion, you open the door for thieves to come rob your home. The same holds true for iden­ti­ty theft. Be care­ful about post­ing sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion online like maid­en name, age, birthday—even your high school! All it takes is one crafty thief to take the back­ground info you’ve post­ed on social media and open a new cred­it card in your name. Use cau­tion when you share this sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion online.

CHECK YOUR ACCOUNTS REGULARLY

Gone are the days of get­ting a bank state­ment in the mail every month that you rec­on­cile with your check­ing account ledger. With almost all of our bank­ing trans­ac­tions occur­ring online, many peo­ple nev­er check the detailed state­ments for their accounts. This is exact­ly what the iden­ti­ty thieves want to hap­pen. Check your bank state­ments for trans­ac­tions you didn’t make, med­ical bills for care you didn’t receive, and cred­it card state­ments for cards you do not have. Also, make it a prac­tice to check each of your three cred­it reports at least once a year—and the best part is that this is free for you to use!

ID THEFT INSURANCE

One last way to pro­tect your­self against iden­ti­ty theft is to enroll in ID Theft Insur­ance. While ID Theft Insur­ance does not pro­tect against the actu­al mon­e­tary theft, it does cov­er the costs you, as the vic­tim, will incur while rebuild­ing your iden­ti­ty. The cov­er­age may include:
• Phone call and pho­to­copy­ing charges
• Postage fees for mail­ing documents
• Salary loss due to uncom­pen­sat­ed time away from work while repair­ing one’s identity
• Legal fees
• Access to a fraud spe­cial­ist who can assist in restor­ing good cred­it and pro­tect­ing one’s iden­ti­ty again
• Help with prepar­ing doc­u­ments, fil­ing police reports and cre­at­ing a fraud vic­tim affidavit

Tak­ing these steps will help pro­tect you and your fam­i­ly from iden­ti­ty theft. While it doesn’t guar­an­tee you will be pro­tect­ed all the time, it does make it hard­er for the thieves to gain access to your pro­tect­ed information—and this can make your iden­ti­ty stay in a hap­py place—with you!