Identity Theft Facts

Posted on Credit 324

Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information without your permission. The information stolen can be Social Security Numbers, birth date, bank numbers, credit card numbers, passwords, name and address.  Identity fraud occurs when this information is used to make fraudulent purchases or withdrawals, create new accounts (credit cards, bank, phone, utilities, and loans) or change existing accounts.  No one wants to be a victim of identity theft, which not only requires time and money to correct, but can also destroy your credit and your savings.

The most common methods of stealing identities are:

  • Skimming information from transactions made in a store
  • Paper mail theft
  • Hacking computer networks and databases
  • Redundant IT equipment (failed to remove passwords and personal information)
  • “Shoulder surfing” watching login credentials over users’ shoulders
  • Dumpster diving

Here are some interesting facts about identity theft:

Numbers affected and when learn about it

  • One in every ten American consumers has been a victim of identity theft
  • Approximately 1.6 million households have had their bank accounts and/or debit cards compromised
  • Nearly 50% of victims learn of their identities stolen within three months
  • About 15% of victims don’t learn of their identities being stolen for four or more years

Financial impact and time

  • Average amount taken from each identity theft victim amounts to $4,841 (approximately three months worth of full-time worker’s wages)
  • Out of pocket expenses for a victim to resolve identity theft damage ranges from $851 to $1,378
  • Average time it takes to repair the damage done by identity theft is 330 hours
  • In some cases, it takes up to 5,840 hours to fully correct the damage done from the theft, which is equivalent to working full time for two years
  • Approximately 70% of victims that have difficulty removing negative information stemming from the theft from their credit reports

Monitoring

  • 25.9 million Americans now carry identity theft insurance
  • 43% of identity fraud cases were spotted by consumers that monitored their accounts; those that use electronic methods had lower than average out-of-pocket costs

How to protect yourself against Identity theft:

  • Prevent criminal access by protecting your documents
    • When Social Security Number is requested, ask if can give alternate information
    • Shred sensitive documents
    • Install anti-virus software and update regularly
    • Always secure digital information behind passwords
    • Turn off your cell phone’s blue tooth and WIFI when not in use
    • Detect unauthorized activity in all your accounts
      • Monitor bank accounts at least weekly
      • Sign up for available mobile or email alerts by your institution
      • Monitor credit reports to spot unauthorized activity
    • Restore your identity fraud completely and thoroughly
      • Work through your bank and protection service provider to report problems immediately
      • Use available services to restore the worthiness of your accounts and credit
      • Take full advantage of your financial provider’s offers of loss

No one wants to be a victim of identity theft, which not only requires time and money to correct, but can also destroy your credit and your savings.  It is best to take precautions so it doesn’t happen to you.

John Ulzheimer is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  Follow him on Twitter here.

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