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October 20, 2010

Identity Theft

What You Need to Know to Avoid Identity Theft
When you think of theft, you usually think of someone stealing your possessions. Modern thieves have gone high-tech-they can take your money, use your credit, and ruin your reputation by stealing your identity. Identity theft can happen to anyone because all of our personal information is scattered in so many places-from online shopping websites and corporate databases to wallets and scraps of paper. Identity theft, or identity fraud, occurs when someone steals information that defines your personal identity-such as your name, Social Security number, bank account numbers, and credit card numbers-to reap the benefits of posing as you. These benefits can be financial, such as access to your accounts and credit cards, or they can be reputational in that thieves can use your identity to get a job or commit a crime.
Using your personal details, a thief can open a credit card account and run up charges, create counterfeit checks using your account number, or even obtain an official government document, such as a driver’s license, in your name. When this happens, you not only lose money, you also face losing the ability to take out a loan, receive medical benefits, or get a job due to bad credit and a damaged reputation. In severe cases, you could even get thrown in jail for mistaken identity. Most often, it takes a long time for victims to realize that their identities have been stolen, and by the time they become aware of the fraud the thief is long gone. This explains why it’s so easy for thieves to commit identity theft and why it’s so hard for law enforcement to catch them.

Important Identity Theft Facts
  • Javelin’s Identity Fraud Report for 2010 found that 11.1 million adults in the U.S. were victims of identity fraud
  • Americans incurred $54 billion in loss from identity theft in 2008
  • The average fraud amount per victim was close to $5,000
  • Victims who found out about their identity theft more than six months after it happened incurred costs 4x higher than the average
  • From 2005 to 2009, there have been more than 500 million consumers whose personal and financial data had been exposed.
  • Victims spend an average of 58 hours repairing the damage done to existing accounts and an average of 165 hours repairing damage done by the creation of new, fraudulent accounts.

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