New report shows that a staggering number of identities were stolen last year

Luckily, there are some ways to protect yourself.

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Even when you do everything right, identity theft is always a risk. There were more than 1,200 breaches in 2016 which exposed more than one billion identities to hackers according to new report. Considering there are just about 7.3 billion people in the world, your chance of keeping your identity to yourself isn’t great.

The statistics from the April 2017 Internet Security Threat Report are alarming at best.

There were 1,209 breaches in 2016. That number is actually down compared to 2014 (1,523) and 2015 (1,211), however, the number of massive breaches exposing more than 10 million people at one time is up:

  • 2014 – 11 breaches that exposed more than 10 million people
  • 2015 – 13 breaches that exposed more than 10 million people
  • 2016 – 15 breaches that exposed more than 10 million people

The number of identities exposed per breach is also higher:

  • 2014 – 805,000 identities exposed
  • 2015 – 466,000 identities exposed
  • 2016 – 927,000 identities exposed

Last year was a record year for data breaches, from Wendy’s (were the nuggets worth it?) to the Democratic National Committee (still mentioned in every political news story).

How To Protect Your Identity

Using cash is obviously the best way to protect yourself from hackers, but it’s not realistic. There is an ease to swiping a credit card and setting up automatic payments for, well, everything! If you’re going to use credit or debit cards, shop online and enter personal information online, you have to take steps to protect yourself financially. Let’s face it—bad guys want your information.

The Penny Hoarder suggests a free service called Credit Sesame. This service alerts you if someone tries to apply for credit in your name.

Some other tips to remember:

  1. Children are more vulnerable than adults because they won’t apply for loans for years! Parents have to monitor their children’s identities as well.
  2. Shred documents containing personal information.
  3. Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your personal computers.
  4. Be extra cautious around tax season when criminals try to use your social security number to falsely file tax returns.
  5. Don’t leave mail in your mailbox too long. If you’re out of town, ask a family member or friend to pick up mail for you.

Here’s some hopeful news regarding this identity theft crisis. Banks are fairly successful at catching the crooks. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 45 percent of victims were contacted about suspicious activity involving their account by their financial institution. The majority of victims, 52 percent, were able to resolve any problems in a day or less.

Others aren’t so lucky…about 9 percent of victims aren’t back to normal for an entire month!

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