A recent study by Javelin indicates the overall rate of identity theft declined significantly year-over-year between 2009 and 2009, with a twenty-eight percent dip in the number of reported events; that's the good news.
The bad news is that the cost of remediating an identity theft event increased by sixty-three percent over the same time period, and the incidence of "friendly fraud" - identity theft by an acquaintance of the victim - rose seven percent.
Younger people and the elderly remain particularly vulnerable to identity theft, and the crime remains the number one reported consumer complaint the FTC receives, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).
The Los Angeles County Sheriff Department offers the following twelve identity theft prevention tips:
1. Identity theft starts with the misuse of your personal identifying information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information.
2. Check your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year.
3. Open your credit card bills and bank statements right away. Review your statements and close unused accounts. Be aware if bills don’t arrive on time. It may mean that someone has changed contact information to hide fraudulent charges.
4. Don’t carry your Social Security card or PIN numbers in your purse or wallet because of what can happen if they fall into the wrong hands.
5. Avoid giving any personal information over the phone, mail, or Internet unless you know who you are dealing with. Give it to them in person instead.
6. Criminals pretend they are collecting money for victims of a natural disaster. Sometimes they claim to be police officers and ask for donations.
7. Elderly people are frequently targeted in money scams. Keep a helpful eye for elderly family members and vulnerable neighbors.
8. Make sure that you disconnect your laptop from a broadband or a shared connection when you are not using it.
9. Avoid offers and pop-ups that sound too good to be true. They want you to enter your information so they can access all of your personal information.
10. Remove your name from mailing lists for pre-approved credit offers. Pre-approved credit card offers are a target for identity thieves who steal your mail. Have your name removed from credit
bureau marketing lists. Call toll-free 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688).
11. Only enter personal information on secure Web pages that encrypt your data in transit. You can often tell if a page is secure if "https" is in URL or if there is a padlock icon on the browser window.
12. If you’re going to use a mail box, do so during or close to the posted pick up hours. Better yet, drop your mail off at your local post office. Retrieve mail promptly and discontinue delivery while out of town.