By John North

Identity theft is big business. In fact, the number of identity theft victims in the US rose to 16.7 million in 2017, which cost the victims around $17 billion according to Javelin Strategy. The use of the internet, including social media, can increase risk. It’s important to keep your personal information private to avoid the possibility of having your identity stolen.

So, what is identity theft? Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information to use without your knowledge. A scammer will use your name, social security number, credit card number or other personal information for their own personal gain. They will often make unauthorized purchases, apply for credit cards or gain access to your bank accounts. It’s a swift, but silent crime as people often don’t find out they’re victims until it’s too late.

Better Business Bureau offers tips to steer clear of identity theft:

– Set the privacy and security settings on web services and devices to your own comfort level for information sharing. It’s OK to limit how and with whom you share information.

– Value your personal information. Be careful what sites you visit and be sure you are on a legitimate site before entering personal information

-Use strong passwords. Avoid using your child’s name, birth date, mother’s maiden name or obvious passwords such as “12345” or “password.”

– Be careful about the types of information you share online, especially if it’s information that could be used to get past security questions on your accounts.

-Don’t click on unfamiliar links online. One click can be what stands between you and your identity being stolen.

-Memorize important information. Try to remember passwords, pin numbers and other important information so there isn’t a chance for someone to access your account if they come across it.

-Be suspicious of any unsolicited communication (email, text, social media message, even phone calls) asking you for personal information.

The most frustrating and unfortunate aspect of identity theft is not realizing your identity has been stolen. Watch for the warning signs by paying close attention to your financial statements. Ask your financial institution about security policies and strategies. If you are victimized, report it immediately to police, your financial institutions and the credit reporting agencies to reduce the possible damages.

However, scammers don’t only attack online. ID thieves also target our trash, mail, cars and more. Protect your personal information.

BBB is providing a free shredding event to help 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20 at Routsong Funeral Home in Centerville. You can bring up to five boxes or bags of material to be shredded. However, it is a popular event and only the first 350 cars are guaranteed to be served. Others will be dependent on truck capacity. Learn more by visiting or calling 937-610-2270.

By John North

John North is the President & CEO of Better Business Bureau Dayton Chapter and is a guest columnist.

John North is the President & CEO of Better Business Bureau Dayton Chapter and is a guest columnist.