A new government report shows one in 14 Americans over age 16 have been a target of identity theft. NBC 7’s Consumer Bob explains the hoops people often have to jump through after becoming a victim.
Jesse Garcia thought everything was fine-- until he tried to buy a new car.
"I go to the credit union, and they tell me they are denying me and I couldn't figure out why," Garcia said.
He had just finished paying off a car loan and was shocked he couldn't get another one, until he checked his credit report and found a credit card for which he did not apply. That credit card was in default.
"Somebody stole my identity," Garcia said, "and that's how this was tied to me."
Garcia is not alone. According to a new government study, one out of every 14 Americans age 16 and over have been the target of identity thieves. The report was issued by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and found that the crime affected 16.6 million people in 2012.
Kim Gough is with Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and says anyone can be a victim.
"I think you have to be on the alert constantly," Gough said. "You as a person can only protect yourself."
But if there is a security breach by a company you do business with, no amount of personal protection will keep your personal information safe.
Garcia has been trying to clear up his credit for three week. One credit reporting agency has removed the fraudulent bill, but the other two still show a default on his report.
"It is a long tedious process, which is unfortunate because it's not my fault to begin with," Garcia said.
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, here are the Top 5 behaviors that can lead to identity theft.
1) Carrying your social security card in your wallet
2) Using a machine that has been compromised with a skimming device
3) Using public WiFi while making financial transactions
4) Responding to a phishing email with personal information
5) Not shredding documents