Don't be Fooled: Fight Identity Theft

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By Carrie Caruthers - April 1, 2019

The true beginnings of April Fool’s Day are a mystery1. It can be a light-hearted day of pranks, but identity theft is no joke, and it can hurt your pocketbook and overall financial status.

It would be easier to safeguard ourselves if this were the one day when thieves could try to mislead and dupe us. Unfortunately, we know this happens every day of the year. On this April 1, it’s a good time to turn the tables and take a few moments to defend yourself with some everyday tips to help guard your personal information.

Not a Laughing Matter—Identity Theft Is on the Rise

Identity theft has affected nearly 60 million Americans, according to a 2018 online survey by The Harris Poll. That same survey indicates nearly 15 million consumers experienced identity theft in 2017.2

The Joke Shouldn’t Be on You

With so many options for identity thieves, the odds of losing control of your personal information are higher than ever. Take steps now to protect yourself.

The average identity theft victim spends 600 hours clearing their identity.

Source: The Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Sentinel Network Report  , 2017.

Protect Your Documents

Keep documents like Social Security cards, birth certificates, car titles, tax returns and insurance policies in a secure place, such as locking file drawers, a home safe, or a safety deposit box at your bank.

For other documents, try these tips for added defense:

  • Destroy paper records and statements that include any personal or financial data. Or keep them in a locked cabinet.4
  • Avoid leaving a paper trail of ATM, credit card or retail receipts behind. Throw them away or shred them when you get home.4
  • Review documents in a timely manner for any suspicious activities. Many institutions have a 10- to 15-day period to report once you receive your statement.5
According to a 2018 online survey by The Harris Poll. That same survey indicates near 15 million consumers experienced identity theft in 2017.

Source: The Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Sentinel Network Report  , 2017.

Go Paperless

Sign up for electronic statements when possible. Generally, you are sent an email notification, with no personal information, when your document or bill is ready to be viewed online. Mailed utility bills, bank or financial statements, checks, credit card offers and others, all contain some personal information—often enough that thieves can fill in the missing pieces.

Don’t leave mail in your mailbox as identity thieves may steal it, or even rummage through your trash to get your information. And sign up for text alerts when available; they let you know when there’s been activity on your account.

Most Common Types of Identity Theft

Credit card fraud: 133,015 reports. Employment or tax-related fraud: 82,061 reports. Phone or utilities fraud: 55,045 reports. Bank fraud: 50,517 reports. Loan or lease fraud: 30,034 reports. Government documents or benefits fraud: 25,849 reports.

Source: The Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Sentinel Network Report  , 2017.

Be Wary of Phone Calls and Know What You’re Clicking On

Phone calls are still a leading way that criminals steal personal information. If someone calls and asks you to verify account information or clear up a bill, hang up and call the business directly.

Criminals also use so-called phishing emails that “fish” for private information. They send emails with links that mimic legitimate business websites and attempt to get you to add your bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, and credit card information. Always hover over links before clicking to see where they actually take you.

We're Committed to Protecting Your Privacy

At American Century Investments®, we're committed to securing your personal information, no matter how you choose to do business with us. Check out our Security Center to learn more about safeguarding your financial accounts and your identity.

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Carrie Caruthers
Carrie Caruthers

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    1 April Fool’s Day  ,

    2 How Common Is Identity Theft?  , 2018.

    3 10 Ways to Prevent, Detect and Fight Identity Theft  , the balance, November 2018.

    4 How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft  , Experian, June 2018.

    5 American Century Investments, 2019.

    The opinions expressed are those of American Century Investments (or the portfolio manager) and are no guarantee of the future performance of any American Century Investments' portfolio. This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.