Identity Theft Risk Increases After Major Life Events

18 September 2015

If you just went through a major life change, like starting a new job or having a baby, chances are identity theft is the last thing on your mind. However, according to a new study, these are the times when you are significantly more at risk of having your identity stolen.

The four major types of life events that increase identity theft risk are:

  • Getting married or divorced: Beginning or ending a marriage makes you 3.5 times more likely to experience identity theft.
  • Buying or selling a house: Due to the large volume of personal and financial information exchanged during these transactions, identity theft risk skyrockets after they’ve been completed. People who sold or bought a house within the past 12 months were 400 times more likely to have their identities stolen than those who stayed out of the real estate market, according to the study.
  • Getting pregnant or giving birth: It’s probably the last thing on your mind when you’re bringing a new baby into the world, but having a child raises your identity theft risk by about 2.7 times.
  • Leaving a job or starting a new one: Having to supply information like social insurance and driver’s license numbers to your employer makes you about 50 percent more likely to have your identity stolen.

Some of these risks are inevitable as these milestones are a normal part of life. For example, homeowners are about three times as likely to suffer identity theft than those who don’t own their own homes, and there’s not much individuals can do to lower this statistic. However, according to an employee of the company that conducted the survey, it’s worth asking if certain information is necessary before handing it over to companies and medical providers.

“A lot of people think that just because they’ve been asked for information, they have to provide it,” the employee told Business Insider. “Before automatically giving it away, ask why. A lot of times, they won’t have an answer. And maybe you’ll be encouraging them to change their security standards.”

However, some of the increased identity theft risk that surrounds these situations stems from information that people share willingly on social media. For example, proud new parents often post their babies’ full names and dates of birth, along with where they were born and where they currently live. This information can be snapped up by criminals and used for child identity theft, which can often go unnoticed for years until the children in question try to open their own lines of credit and find that their credit score has been ruined. Similarly, many engaged couples post their full names along with their spouses’ and talk about where they’re moving in together and where they’re honeymooning, all of which can be used by fraudsters.

To help protect yourself from the risks associated with identity theft, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service today. Credit monitoring services can alert you to certain activity in your credit file that may indicate fraud.