Thursday, June 4, 2009

Survey: Women at higher risk for ID theft

NEW YORK (6/3/09)--Women are more likely to be a victim of identity theft--and lose more money--than men, according to national survey results released by Norwalk, Conn.-based Affinion Security Center ( May 19).

The good news is that women are more likely to change behavior after the experience.

Twenty-eight percent of women surveyed had their identity stolen, compared with 21% of men. And 17% of women surveyed lost $1,000 or more that they never recovered, compared with only 10% of men reporting losses that high.

Survey respondents were asked if they changed behavior to protect themselves. Responses revealed that women are more likely to take aggressive action--such as subscribing to a credit-monitoring service, traveling with limited personal information and shredding documents before disposing of them--to avoid becoming a victim twice.

An identity fraud survey report released in February by Javelin Strategy & Research revealed that fraud attacks involving women occurred most often in person, such as in restaurants and stores, rather than online.

Lin Standke, Credit Union National Association's manager of youth programs and a victim of identify fraud, offers these suggestions for protection:

Zip it up. The No. 1 method for stealing your personal information is through lost or stolen wallets, so keep your plastic safe. Use a purse with a zipper rather than an open bag. Don't hang your purse on the back of a chair at a restaurant. Instead, keep it between your feet or on your lap.

Be consistent. Keep your plastic in the same place and put it back there every time you use it. That way you'll notice immediately if a card is missing. Better yet, carry only the card you plan to use and your driver's license.

Keep it in sight. Ask to see a manager if a store employee steps into a back room to swipe your credit card when there is a machine at the cash register. This is not a typical procedure (except in restaurants), and the clerk may be copying your information.

Take online precautions. Keep your virus protection programs up to date, install a firewall, and don't click on links within e-mail messages.

Check account activity frequently—online. Most credit and debit cards have online access so you can review your purchases. If you find a charge you didn't make, report it immediately.

Lock it up. Keep personal information such as account numbers, passwords, and Social Security numbers in a safe, locked place at home.

For more information, read, "Identity Theft: Getting Back to Square One" in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

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