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My Identity is Gone — Stealing in the New Age


What are the sources for the highest amount of identity theft?

Is identity theft really as a big a problem as publicized?

Doesn’t identity theft happen to other people?

I found interesting and startling information at “McAfee Identity Protection” – a counter identity theft company. We hear about people’s identities being stolen and I often hear about “how dangerous the internet is for stealing your stuff”. But I had never really looked at any numbers. The internet appears to have nothing on other forms of theft:

  • Last year, 11million people fell victim to identity theft.
  • Last year, identity theft resulted in losses of $54 billion.
  • 89% of identity theft occurs off-line.
  • Every (3) seconds an identity is stolen.
  • Average fraud damages suffered by each victim of identity theft totals $5000.
  • Between 2005 and 2008 more than 1900 false tax returns were filed by identity thieves.
  • On average, most people must spend 165 hours repairing the damage caused through the creation of new accounts by identity thieves.
  • The average amount of time spent repairing damage done to existing accounts by identity thieves.
  • 43% of all identity theft is the result of the theft of hard copy items, such as a wallet, checkbook, credit card, billing statement, or another physical document.
  • Data breaches affect as much as 25% of American adults.
  • The number of personal identities stolen over the internet amount to only a surprising 11%.

The FTC provides some very valuable information about how thieves are able to misuse personally identifying information:

  • Dumpster Diving. They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
  • Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card.
  • Phishing. They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
  • Changing Your Address. They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
  • Old-Fashioned Stealing. They steal wallets and purses; mail, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records, or bribe employees who have access.
  • Pretexting. They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies, and other sources.

What can you do if you discover identity theft?

  • File an identity theft police report immediately.
  • Check credit reports for unusual activity such as new credit cards you do not know about and loan applications. Place a fraud alert on your credit report.
  • Dispute unauthorized transactions you discover.
  • Close all accounts that have been opened fraudulently.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-877-438-4338 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.

Do not trust email offers of credit cards without carefully evaluating the actual website and verifying its accuracy. Obtaining credit cards only from your own bank or a well known, established credit provider is probably the safest practice.

Use a shredder at home. Many different models suitable for home use can be purchased reasonably at most office supply stores and retail stores, such as WalMart, Target, etc. Shred all the mail and forms containing personal information, of which you intend to throw out.

Use common sense in dealing with your credit, offers of credit and with your personal information. You would not provide your personal information to a stranger who appeared at your door one day unnanouced, would you? Don’t make the same mistake through email contacts either.

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