In the novel Don Quixote, author Miguel de Cervantes writes, By a small sample, we may judge of the whole piece. That, of course, is an early reference to statistics. They’re often useful, but sometimes just plain scary. We’ll discuss some scary statistics about identity theft today on MoneyWise. The financial information review site Fortunly recently compiled a list of identity theft statistics that should have us all concerned and ready to take steps to guard ourselves against this growing type of fraud. Now, since these stats were drawn from many different sources, some would appear to contradict others, but taken as a whole, they’re really eye-opening. ALARMING IDENTITY THEFT NUMBERS To start with, there’s a new victim of identity theft every 14 seconds in the U. S. And this would include adults and children. Put another way, about 50-million people become victims of this fraud every year. Identity theft costs Americans well over $50-billion a year. This includes IT professionals who’ve lost their jobs due to data breaches and consumers who are scammed through direct interaction with thieves, like in phishing emails and telephone fraud. The elderly are more likely to become victims of identity theft, and each year, the Federal Trade Commission receives well over 2 million related complaints a year. Now, this next statistic is really scary: 33% of Americans report they’ve been the victim of identity theft at least once in their lives. And the U. S. seems to be a world leader in this regard, with numbers higher than other nations like France and Germany. Not surprisingly, credit card fraud is the most likely way you’ll be hit by identity theft. is the most common kind of identity theft, with the FTC getting nearly 20, 000 complaints a year. Do you spend a lot of time on social media? Users of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are 30% to almost 50% more likely to become victims of identity theft than folks who are not active on social media. Thieves have discovered those apps are a goldmine for collecting personal information on individuals to steal their identity. Most often, thieves use stolen identities to apply for government documents and benefits like with Social Security and filing fraudulent tax returns to get your refund. The next most common use of stolen identities is credit card fraud, followed by banking and utility fraud. Now, could where you live make you more likely to experience identity theft? Apparently so, according to the FTC, which has received nearly 150, 000 complaints from California alone. Next in line is Illinois, then Texas, Florida and Georgia in order, rounding out the top five worst states for identity theft. Your age is another determining factor. Millennials, roughly age 20 to 40 years of age, make up more than a third of victims. Folks 60 to 69 make up a far lower percentage of victims, but their losses tend to be much higher when they’re scammed. The fastest growing demographic for identity theft seems to be children, with over 1. 3 million million of them becoming victims each year. Half of those are aged six or younger, and victims are getting younger all the time. The annual price tag for families suffering child identity theft is well over $500 million. So who’s stealing children’s identities? Well, it’s interesting that only 7% of adults know the person who commits this fraud, but in the case of children, that figure is a whopping 60%. That means children are far more likely to have a family member, or a family acquaintance steal their identity. Here’s another scary statistic: Up to 10% of the annual U. S. health budget is lost to identity theft that’s about two million cases a year. Medical identity theft is when someone steals or uses your personal information, like your Social Security or Medicare number, to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare and other health insurers without your authorization. And one more statistic: Gift card fraud now amounts to losses around $150 million a year and is trending upward. That’s not necessarily identity theft. It’s when you’re scammed into paying a bill or taxes that you don’t owe by using a gift card. So what steps can you take to protect yourself? First, if you’re asked to pay for something over the phone or in an email that you didn’t initiate, hang up or hit delete. Second, get a copy of all three of your credit reports from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax at AnnualCreditReport. com. Look for accounts or loans that you don’t recognize. If you find any, you can dispute them online. Finally, freeze your credit at all three bureaus. You have to do it individually, but it’s well worth the effort to protect yourself from identity theft. On today’s program, Rob also answers listener questions: ● Is there a way to give charitably out of a 401k and receive a charitable tax deduction? ● What are the limits on the amount you’re allowed to contribute to a Roth IRA? ● Does paying off your mortgage affect your credit score? ● What financial steps do you need to take after a spouse passes away?