with millions of Americans victimized each year, costing consumers an estimated $5 billion in out-of-pocket losses and businesses $48 billion, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Nearly 10 million people fall victim to identity theft each year, but that's only part of the story. Consumers should be aware that, in addition to individual cases of identity theft, more than
have been exposed due to data security breaches since February 2005. That was the month that consumer data broker ChoicePoint, Inc. exposed the financial records of more than 163,000 consumers in its database. It is important to note that an exposed financial record does not mean that an individual's identity has been stolen, but that the security of their personal information has been compromised.
In July, 2003, a California law was implemented requiring "any person or business doing business in California" to report to "data subjects" the incidence of a security breach, defined as, "Unauthorized acquisition of computerized data that compromises the security, confidentiality, of integrity of personal information."
By January of 2007, a total of 33 states will have similar data breach legislation on the books.
It is important for you to know how you may protect yourself against identity theft. Despite increased vigilance, data breaches continue to occur, and consumers should be aware that they are a threat, and can lead to identity theft.
See 2006 Data Breach Events Below
Why has identity theft become so commonplace?
Because it's a crime that can happen to anyone, at any time! It's often a silent crime that happens in the normal course of everyday life. It can happen when you write a check, charge airline tickets or a rental car, give out your social security number, or your driver's license number, answer an email, talk to a "representative" on the phone, enter your user name, password, or provide your PIN number. That's just a partial list, but the important thing to know is that identity thieves search for every possible, and sometimes very convenient, way to steal the personal information of unsuspecting victims. Mitigating the effects of identity theft can be very costly and a major source of stress and inconvenience, costing many hours, or even days, of your valuable time.
Experts agree, one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself against identity theft is to monitor your credit report - and not just one credit report, but all three credit reports. Why? Because an incidence of identity theft may not be detected on all three credit bureaus! Today, daily credit monitoring is available through 3-Bureau Monitoring services. By monitoring key changes to all three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, you can receive email alerts if changes occur on any one of your three credit reports.
The bottom line: Monitoring your credit can be your "first line of defense" against Identity Theft.