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When it comes to identity theft, everyone is vulnerable. In fact, identity theft affects approximately one in 20 Americans every year. In 2019 alone, roughly 13 million consumers in the United States were affected by identity fraud with total losses of around $17 billion. In other words, identity theft is a widespread problem, and the losses suffered from this illicit practice are staggering. In this article, we discuss identity theft and how to prevent it. 

 Common Types of Identity Theft 

Although there are several types of identity theft, most fall into the following categories:

  • Unauthorized debit and credit card use: With this type of identity theft, thieves use people’s card credentials to make unauthorized purchases. 
  • Account takeover: When thieves have access to people’s login credentials, they sometimes access victims’ accounts to change account details, make purchases, or withdraw money. Common targets include checking and savings accounts, accounts linked to credit cards, mobile phone accounts, and investment accounts. 
  • Taking out loans or opening credit accounts: Another common type of identity theft occurs when thieves use people’s personal identifying information to take out loans or open credit accounts. Since these accounts are linked to a person’s identity, this type of identity theft can severely damage an identity theft victim’s credit. 
  • Government fraud: Finally, identity thieves also use stolen information to simultaneously defraud theft victims and the government. Specifically, identity thieves use people’s information to obtain government benefits, create fake identification, provide documentation to employers, and file fraudulent tax returns.  

Common Sources of Identity Theft

One of the most unsettling things about identity theft is the number of ways in which thieves obtain people’s personal information. Common sources of identity theft include: 

  • Stolen or discarded documents containing personal identifying information
  • Public wi-fi networks
  • Data breaches affecting government agencies, merchants, health care companies, and other organizations
  • Lost or stolen debit or credit cards
  • Social engineering operations that trick people into providing their card credentials or other personal information

How to Prevent Identity Theft

Although it isn’t possible to avoid the risk of identity theft completely, there are steps that you can take to reduce your risk of becoming a victim. Steps you can take to prevent identity theft include:

  • Monitor your credit and accounts
  • Stay off public wi-fi
  • Use an encrypted internet connection
  • Use caution when using the internet 
  • Use unique, complex passwords
  • Shred important documents and mail before discarding 

Contact a Consumer Class Action Attorney Today! 

If you are a victim of identity theft, you need an experienced consumer class action attorney in your corner. Identify theft is often the result of negligence by institutions that store your personal information. If an institution has provided unauthorized access to your personal information, our attorneys will work hard to ensure that you obtain financial compensation for your losses. Please contact us today to schedule a free consultation.