Turns out 1.1 Billion Identities Were Exposed to Theft in One Year (NBD, Right?)
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When it comes to protecting your identity, you can be one of two people, in my opinion.
You can be the person who’s overly cautious. Never swipe a card; only use cash. Never leave a paper trail; always shred. Never let go of your password; always reset.
You’re a Ron Swanson of sorts (if you watched “Parks and Recreation”).
Or you’re the type of person who slides on their rose-colored glasses and says something like, “Of the billions of people in the world, who wants my information? I’ll be fine.”
I suppose there’s a third, too. That’d be me: a combination of sorts. I like the idea of protecting what assets I have, but I don’t want to actively keep tabs on my identity. I use a free tool called Credit Sesame that does that for me.
Once you sign up, Credit Sesame’s free identity theft protection will alert you to important changes in your credit report (like someone trying to apply for credit in your name), and it offers $50,000 in identity theft insurance. So you can stay safe without buying a shredder.
Not convinced you need someone — or something — keeping track of your identity?
These numbers should sober you right up. At least, they did for me.
Here Are Some Scary Identity Theft Statistics
Symantec Corporation's most recent Internet Security Report is 77 pages — but I pulled some numbers for you to put internet security in perspective:
- In 2016, there were 1,209 breaches.
- 15 of those breaches exposed more than 10 million identities, deeming them “mega breaches.”
- The total number of “identities exposed” soared to 1.1 billion (compared to 564 million in 2015. But it’s still better than the 1.2 billion we saw in 2014.)
- The average number of identities exposed in each breach were 927,000.
Do note, these numbers are from across the globe. However, the United States sits pretty (or not) at the top the list of the top 10 countries by number of identities stolen.
- United States: 791,820,040 identities stolen
- France: 85,312,000 identities stolen
- Russia: 83,500,000 identities stolen
- Canada: 72,016,746 identities stolen
- Taiwan: 30,000,051 identities stolen
- China: 11,344,346 identities stolen
- South Korea: 10,394,341 identities stolen
- Japan: 8,301,658 identities stolen
- Netherlands: 6,595,756 identities stolen
- Sweden: 6,084,276 identities stolen
Most identities stolen in the U.S. — 90% — were due to those few mega breaches.
The 2-Minute Fix to Protect Your Identity
To keep tabs on your information, you can sign up for Credit Sesame here — it's free.
It takes about two minutes to sign up: for more details, see our review here. When someone tries to apply for credit in your name, you'll receive a text. If anything goes wrong, the service also covers you for up to $50,000 in identity theft insurance.
Plus, at any time, it lets you review your credit report for suspicious activity.
Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Typically, she’s pretty paranoid about her finances, but when it comes to protecting her identity, she’s a little too slack (unless there’s a free tool that takes all of two minutes to sign up for!).