Identity Theft facts are never too old to drive your attention because it is a serious and common problem and it occurs very frequently than people assume. This crime is getting worse year after year. Avoiding it is difficult and sometimes out of our control but it can be decreased to a great extent provided the victims address the problem in a proper way and at the right time. Around 2.7 million people lost their identities in 2014 according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Identity fraud is a rising crime in which the criminal steals your personal information for his selfish purpose.
- How criminals steal an identity?
There are several methods by which an identity thief can steal your identity. These are given below:
• The most conventional method of stealing information is through your mailbox. Criminals can go through your mailbox (if it is not locked) to steal your emails which have almost all your personal information.
• The criminals can also steal your personal belongings like your wallet, documents, etc. to learn your personal information.
• You might not know but someone could be looking when you are typing pin/password of your account.
• With the technology advancements, the internet has become a very unsafe place for people. Individuals can suffer from online identity theft as criminals can access your information online also by sending viruses and hacking your system.
2. What are the signs of identity theft?
Check your credit reports on a regular basis. Credit monitoring is a great method to find out if someone else has accessed your bank account for any purpose. If you receive any suspicious emails or messages regarding something you have not registered or applied then this could be a sign of identity theft.
3. Re-establishing the identity
It can take several months and even years to discover that you are a victim of identity theft. Recovering from identity theft can also be time consuming.
Identity theft victims spend an average of 175 hours and $808 approximately to resolve their problem according to the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) and the Privacy Rights Clearing House. Even after recovering from identity theft, victims find it difficult to acquire loans, phone connection, rent houses, etc.
4. Growing Concern
The increasing cases of identity fraud these days is an issue of concern and appropriate steps need to be taken by the individuals and the government to address identity theft in a proper manner. It is our misunderstanding that identity theft happen only to those people who are careless about their information and it cannot happen to us. It’s not true. It can happen to anyone at any point of time. In fact, it is the fastest growing crime in the USA.
• A defendant from the Middle District of Florida obtained personal information (names, Social Security Numbers, addresses, etc.) from a website and applied for several car loans using this information.
• A woman from the Southern District of Florida used a stolen identity (by stealing a driver’s license) to extract over $13,000 from the victim’s bank account.
The latest survey conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) bulletin provides a report on the frequency of occurrence of identity theft and the people affected by it. It gives the number of people aged 16 years and above affected by identity theft. According to the report:
• Almost 7% of the total population (aged 16 years and above) became identity theft victims in 2014.
• Most of these victims (about 86%) suffered from financial identity theft which included credit card fraud and stealing of bank account information.
• The majority of the victims discover identity theft after several months.
• The number of victims aged 60 and above also increased to 2.6 million in 2014.
5. Children are at risk too
Often children can also become the victims of identity theft as the thieves steal their name, date of birth or SSN. Unless a child’s identity is saved and checked often, it might get stolen to a thief who might use his identity for obtaining new bank or credit accounts and services like utilities, phones, the internet etc.
36% of the criminals in child identity theft come out to be family relatives and 35% are found to be family friends.
6. Other facts:
• According to the United States Postal Inspection Service, it can take an average of 44 months for the victims to restore their identities.
• Identity theft was the most widespread complaint (for the 15th year in a row) in the year 2014.
• Another study by Javelin Strategy & Research revealed that around 12.7 million people of USA became identity theft victims in 2014 with losses of approximately $16 billion.
There are many steps taken by the government against this crime. The US government understands the growing problem and what damages could be caused by it. Thus, the government introduced Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which provides assistance to the victims of identity theft.
The problem of identity theft is quite severe and the facts prove that it has become even more serious. Various organisations such as the legislature, identity theft agencies which provide identity protection services, banks and other financial institutions are actively participating in getting rid of the increasing problems of this crime. Individuals should also take appropriate steps to protect themselves and their dear ones from this felony. We cannot leave everything on the organisations to resolve our problem. In fact, one should learn about the ways to protect oneself from identity theft.