RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — When it comes to the internet, it can make things easier for us in many ways, but it can also make things more dangerous if we lose our identity to criminals.
When criminals get ahold of your identity, it can be a long road to recovery and can be financially and emotionally devastating.
“A person whose identity is compromised or seriously compromised, goes through the exact same emotional pattern as somebody who goes through a violent crime,” said James Lee of the Identity Theft Resource Center.
“What we find is people have problems at work after that,” said Lee. “They have problems with their family. You have people who tell us about 10% of the time that they contemplate suicide.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than 1 million reports of identity theft were submitted last year and a new survey by US News and World Report says 73% of Americans were victimized by ID theft with more than a quarter of them being victimized more than once.
Where do scammers get a lot of their personal information about you?
Turns out, we actually give it away unknowingly.
“A lot of times on social media, scammers are just looking for whatever little tidbit they can find out about you,” said Nick Hill of the Better Business Bureau of the Eastern Carolinas.
“One common scam that we started seeing now are these really fun looking little surveys on social media that will ask seemingly innocent questions like, What was your mom’s maiden name? What was the name of your first pet?”
You can make it tougher for scammers to steal your identity by following these tips:
When you post photographs, a lot of digital pictures come with metadata attached. You should strip the metadata out before you post a photo.
You can go through your phone or you can go through an editing app and see if there’s options that you can use to erase some of that metadata,” said Hill. “This metadata often will include the location of where this photo was taken, as well as the time it was taken.”
ID theft is so common, there is actually insurance available to protect yourself. But before you run out and buy a separate policy, ask your agent if its already covered by your homeowners’ policy.