(WatchDogReport.org) – Identity theft affects the lives of as many as 47% of Americans. But, how worried should you be? Banks and creditors use your social security number (SSN) to approve loans and open accounts, and you feel safe that nobody has access to it. Can someone still steal your identity without it?
The simple answer is yes. There are other ways to steal your identity than getting hold of your SSN. One private report states that in 2020, 47% of Americans experienced identity theft in some fashion, costing consumers upwards of $713 billion. The main cause of the theft: data breaches.
What Is a Data Breach?
A data breach happens when a company that stores personal information electronically is compromised. Whether it be by internal error or an external attack by hackers, the end result is your information being taken. The information that’s compromised is what’s important.
Identity thieves regularly gain access to your email addresses, cell phone numbers and other contact information. If you’ve ever received an email from someone who is obviously not Amazon telling you your Amazon account is locked, that’s a scam. When you answer the phone, yet another local number is reaching out to talk to you about your car’s extended warranty, that’s also a con.
How Worried Should You Be?
Once those things start happening, you should consider yourself on the radar. It might be a good idea to check your credit report and bank accounts, just to be sure things haven’t escalated. Consider a credit monitoring service if you don’t have one already. Your credit card companies, as well as all three national credit bureaus, offer inexpensive subscriptions. If you’re the victim of a data breach, the company that mishandled your information will often offer a service to you for free. Don’t turn it down.
More Than Just Email Addresses
The most dangerous thing that can happen from a data breach is the leaking of driver’s license information. Without knowing your SSN, a thief can still make a pretty convincing copy of you. A really savvy thief will use the information to mine for more. Remember, now they know your date of birth, license number, and height and weight.
Misusing that information can land you in a lot of trouble. A person using your personal info can commit crimes and claim to be you. Imagine getting a notice from the local court that you’ve missed your date, and now there’s a bench warrant for your arrest. Or a notice from the unemployment office that you weren’t eligible for the benefits you received and have to pay them back. Yes, it can be that serious.
If your driver’s license information is exposed, you should report your license stolen to your local police department and your state’s licensing authority immediately.
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