ID Theft: Are You the Next Victim?
When it comes to protecting your identity, maybe you have your head on your shoulders and maybe you don't. Test yourself to find out.
(MONEY Magazine) – 1) How much money does the typical victim of identity theft lose?
[A] $1,657 [B] $950 [C] $422 [D] $0
ANSWER: D. More than two-thirds of ID theft victims didn't lose a dime last year. (Of course, that means some people did end up out of pocket: The average loss was $422 vs. $675 in 2004.) Why? Federal law limits your liability--$50 for credit cards; $500 for debit cards--if you report the fraud within 60 days. And most issuers offer even stronger protections, guaranteeing that you won't be on the hook for any of the bill. The real cost to you is time and stress: It takes the average victim 40 hours of effort to restore his or her good name.
2) What is the most common way your identity is stolen?
[A] Dumpster diving [B] Stolen mail [C] Lost or stolen wallet, checkbook or credit card
ANSWER: C. Among victims who could pinpoint the source of ID theft, 30% blamed a lost or stolen wallet, checkbook or credit card. Dumpster diving, in which your personal info is lifted from documents you throw out, made up less than 1% of cases, down from 2.6% in 2004, as some 70% of people now shred paper files (keep shredding!). However, in 8% of cases, info is stolen out of mailboxes before you have a chance to shred. Since credit-card offers make it easy to open an account in your name, call 888-5-OPTOUT to stop unsolicited card applications.
3) What type of identity theft is the most difficult to detect?
[A] Fraudulent accounts opened in your name [B] Charges to a credit card you already have [C] Hacking into your checking or savings account
ANSWER: A. It takes an average of 152 days for victims to find out that a new account has been opened in their name. That's because only a credit report or notice from the lender or a collection agency will alert you to the new account's existence. Reduce your vulnerability by regularly checking your credit report--by law, you're entitled to a free report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year (go to annualcreditreport.com or, if you have trouble getting onto the site, call 877-322-8228). Your best bet is to stagger requests, getting a report from a different bureau every four months.
4) Identity theft on the Internet is growing.
[A] True [B] False
ANSWER: B. Online fraud made up 9% of ID theft cases in which the source was known last year, down from 11.6% in 2004. People who bank online typically uncover fraud in 22 days vs. more than a month for paper accounts. You can reduce your susceptibility to online fraud by using updated anti-spyware and anti-virus software. If you bank online, you will be even safer by year-end, when all banks will be required to ask for a secondary piece of identifying information, in addition to your password, before you can gain access to your account.
5) What age group is most susceptible to identity theft?
A] 25 to 34 [B] 35 to 54 [C] 55 to 64 [D] 65-plus
ANSWER: A. Contrary to popular belief, seniors had the lowest rate of ID theft, while 25- to 34-year-olds were most at risk. Why? The lifestyle of many Gen X-ers--going out often and trading personal information on MySpace.com and other social networking sites--creates more opportunity for identity thieves, says Javelin Strategy & Research, whose 2006 ID theft study supplied the data for this quiz. In cases where the perpetrator's identity was discovered, for example, 20% were service employees, such as a waiter or cashier. A pity that someone you think is there to serve you is really out to con you.