Sometimes people don’t think about an adverse situation until they see the actual statistics. Cold. Hard. Facts. Identity theft and other forms of theft are uncomfortable to think about, but they are real. And the sooner you realize that identity theft is an equal opportunity nightmare, the sooner you can start taking steps to prevent identity theft and protect your personal and financial well being.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when a thief has access to your personal information such as Social Security numbers, date of birth, or any other piece of financial information which can be used to open credit accounts.
The thief often makes small moves which are harder to detect, especially when consumers are not on the look out for fraud. Most cases of identity theft involve a long, drawn-out process for the victim to resolve the fraud, which affects credit histories, scores, and personal reputations.
Here is the worst part – you don’t know who this thief is. They could be someone you know and think you trust, such as a family member or coworker, or it could be someone you have never met. It could even be someone who lives halfway across the world.
Identity Theft – A Numbers Game
Identity theft is on the rise and there are some facts consumers need to face. It certainly is not a victimless crime and consumers who have had their identities stolen have spent years trying to make things right. Here are some statistics you should know about identity theft:
- Up to 10 million Americans fall victim to incidents of identity theft with 12% of victims being issued arrest warrant for financial crimes committed using their identity.
- ⅓ of victims have reported fraud involving checking accounts or stolen debit cards
- 66% of victims have identity stolen to open new credit card accounts
- 28% of victims have identity used to secure a cell phone account
In some cases, the theft is committed by a person whom the victim knows personally. The statistics speak for themselves with 43% of victims knowing who stole their vital information. Other incidents include 14-25% of victims think the con works at a business they have frequented. Sadly, the most common case of theft of an identity is when parents steal their own child’s information to obtain credit.
Time Poorly Spent
The time it takes for some victims to clear up the mess can range from a few hours to a few thousand hours (some cases can take decades). Up to 32% of victims spend 4-6 months trying to resolve their cases. The average victim can lose over $14,000 in wages because of the need to take days off to straighten out their finances. It can cost close to $1500 in expenses to resolve ID theft cases.
Emotional and Financial Turmoil
Again, identity theft is not a victimless crime. The emotional and financial chaos that ensues can last for years when in many cases the perpetrator gets off scot-free if they have never been caught. Here are some highlights of what a victim can expect:
- Nearly 50% of victims will face issues trying to get a new loan or line of credit
- Over 70% have difficulties getting negative information removed from their credit report which in turn lowers their scores
- 60% of victims feel that law enforcement and the legal system doesn’t protect them enough
- 40% of victims face high levels of stress due to the anxieties of being on the receiving end of fraud. This impacts family life greatly and often causes divorces or strained family relations.
Time Is a Factor
As mentioned, identity theft is often a tough case to crack because many identity thieves do not make big purchases that will alert victims early in the game. Up to 48% of victims only realize they have been taken for a ride after three full months after the fraud began. In extreme cases, it may take several years before a victim becomes aware of the theft.
Protection is in your hands
There are many ways you can protect yourself against identity theft, or at the minimum check for early signs of identity theft. Always check your billing statements line by line and order a free copy of your annual credit report to check over your information for accuracy. you may also wish to use a credit monitoring service such as IDENTITY GUARD®, or a similar company.
Sometimes the only way a victim will detect fraud is by diligence in checking their information. In other cases, victims only learn of the crime after they have tried to apply for a loan or new line of credit and have been denied. Taking proactive measures can prevent further incident and can increase the likelihood the thief will be caught and prosecuted.