In 2014, consumers reported losing $1.7 billion to scams and frauds according to a report by the Federal Trade Commission.* Surprisingly, that figure may only be a minimal amount of the actual losses, due to the many who never reported being victimized.
As identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America, scam artists and thieves often target the digits you use each day. Here are some digit tips you should keep in mind so you can protect yourself from being a victim.
Birthdate: Did you know that with your name, address, and birthdate in hand, some scammers may be able to buy your Social Security number on websites? In fact, with your birthdate and hometown, thieves can often guess all of your digits. So think twice about listing your birthdate on social media and other websites.
Zip Code: Often after making a purchase with a credit card at the cash register, you’re asked to provide your ZIP code. Beware – your ZIP code may find its way to scammers who can couple it with other bits of personal data to then steal your identity.
Phone Number: Online software can allow fraudsters to see your phone number anyway. When you receive “robocalls,” responding to “opt out,” instructions may serve to notify the caller that the number works and has potential for future victimization. Making callbacks to offers of free merchandise may also reveal your phone number, which can then show up on the “suckers list” that scammers sell to others online.
Passport: Even if you’re not traveling, a stolen or lost passport is serious business because the numbers on it may lead to identity theft. Be sure that your passport is locked away safely. If it's missing in the United States, call the National Passport Information Center at 877-487-2778 to immediately deactivate it and get a new one. If abroad, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
PINs: Before computers, personal identification numbers (PINs) were typically used as original passwords. While still very popular, keep this in mind: never use your birthdate – for instance, 0321 for March 21); your birth year or your home’s address as a PIN for an ATM; also stay away from PINs such as 1234, 0000, 2580 (a top-to-bottom keypad sequence), 0852 (bottom-to-top keypad sequence), or 1111, 5555, 1212, etc.
Source: *2014 Federal Trade Commission Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/consumer-sentinel-network-data-book-january-december-2014/sentinel-cy2014-1.pdf