13 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2013 - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

13 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2013

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WASHINGTON -

There has been an increase in the number of Americans who fell victim to identity theft in 2013.

A new report released by the Consumer Federation of America shows more than 13 million Americans were impacted by identity theft-related crimes last year. That is an increase of more than 500,000 over 2012.

The most common case involved people's accounts being completely taken over.

Identity theft -- simply put -- is when someone steals your personal information and pretends to be you.

Once they have your information, they can do many things such as emptying your bank account, getting medical attention or even obtaining your tax refunds under your name.

Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection at the Consumer Federation of America, said with several targets for thieves, including computers and tablets, people need to be more careful than ever with their information.

"There are lots of different ways that ID theft happens,” said Grant. “If it’s because of data breaches, there’s not much consumers can do about that. But I think that people are not being as careful as they should be when they’re using their smartphones, laptops, tablets or other devices, especially when they’re doing very personal activities like shopping or banking."

So what are some things you can do to prevent identity theft? You can start by not posting your personal information online, using strong passwords to lock your accounts and devices, and by downloading apps and programs only from trusted sources.

The Consumer Federation of America released several new videos that will show you what can happen if your identity is stolen. To view them, go to http://www.consumerfed.org/issues/consumer-protection-and-privacy/fraud/665/#idtheft.

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