You’re one in a million. Actually, you’re one in more than eight million if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, as that’s how many consumers were affected by this crime in 2007.
Often, identity theft is committed without the victim’s knowledge, with the individual remaining in possession of the credit cards and personal information. The criminals, or crime ring, wrongfully obtain and use personal data in a way that involves fraud or deception, most often for economic gain. The crime keeps growing, morphing into new schemes such as phishing (sending an email that directs consumers to a phony Web site that asks for personal financial data) and pharming (a tactic where criminals break into Web domains and gather the personal and financial data of users).
Perhaps the worst news of all is that recent studies show that half of all identity thefts are committed by someone the victim knows. Once an identity is stolen, the average victim spends 30 hours restoring their good name and good credit, at an average cost of $500.
When considering online identity theft, 90% of the victims reported they had suffered a financial loss averaging $1,440. Interestingly, it’s the tech-savvy young adults who account for the largest number of online theft victims. Counter to what many think, most identity thefts take place offline, with online ID theft representing only a small percent of all cases. Credit card fraud is the most common form of ID theft, followed by phone or utilities, with bank fraud next in line.
There is no area of life that is immune to ID theft. Making it even more difficult to fight is the fact that the criminal’s motives are varied. The thieves may steal your identity for financial gain, to get a new identity for themselves, to commit felonies in your name, to obtain a passport, or even for terrorist activities.
Today’s consumer must be educated regarding ID theft protection. Start by guarding your personal records as thoroughly as you do your home. You wouldn’t let just anyone into your house. Likewise, don’t provide strangers access to your financial records. This means staying vigilant and up-to-date on the most current prevention tips, recent corporate breaches, and frequently checking your credit report for unauthorized activity.
To help consumers protect themselves against this crime, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) is launching Protect Your Identity Week October 19-25, 2008. To learn more about identity theft protection, to assess your risk of ID Theft, or to find events in your area, go to www.ProtectYourIDNow.org. Free workshops, shredding, and credit report reviews are among the many activities open to the public during the week.