The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) collects information about consumer fraud and identity theft from various organizations, including the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, Attorney Generals Offices, and various state and local law enforcement agencies. According to an FTC report, Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for January – December 2012 (2013), the CSN received over 2 million consumer complaints between January and December 2012. Of the more than 2 million complaints received during calendar year 2012, identity theft complaints accounted for 18% of all complaints.
Identity theft remains a major crime and a major burden for the victims.
- 11.6 million victims in 2011
- 12.6 million victims in 2012
Once your personal information is stolen, thieves can use it to open accounts in your name, like credit cards, bank accounts, insurance policies, phone and internet services, and loans. This can ruin your credit report and possibly cost you a lot of money. So how can you avoid becoming a victim? One key strategy is to monitor your identity.
- Credit Reports: Review your credit reports at least once a year. You can check it for any incorrect information or fraudulent activity. You are entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion). You can get them all at once or stagger your requests every 4 months, so that you are monitoring your credit report as frequently as possible. Request yours at AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Monitor Your Accounts: Review your bank and credit card statements every month and check for any unfamiliar activity.
- Explanation of Insurance Benefits: This document from your health insurance provider will outline any activity regarding hospital and doctor visits, procedures, etc.
For more information on identity theft and how to prevent it, download our FREE Educational Handout: Identity Theft Protection