Put simply, identity theft happens when someone takes your identity without your knowledge. They use your social security number or a credit card in order to get credit, cell phones, credit cards or any other goods without your permission. The individual with your information can actually create more problems for you by doing crimes in your name.
Although many people think that identity theft is a crime that happens outside their home, the truth is that many times it happens because of a family member. The person who has the most access to your information can be a spouse or an adult child. These can be the first places to look when you experience this crime.
Some people have this happen after their wallet or other personal information is stolen. This can happen if you make online purchases in unsecured sites or if you are tricked into responding to an Internet offer. In some types of identity theft, employees at businesses or medical facilities will be enticed to steal patient information and give it to the identity thief.
Identity theft can also find its way to you through scams for scholarships or other things that people need. Many unscrupulous thieves will offer you something that you want and when you send them your information, they capture it to use later.
If you use online social networking or create a profile anywhere, an individual can steal your identity using this pertinent information.
There are several statistics that allow us to understand part of what is going on with identity theft. According to the 2012 National Crime Victimization Survey, it is estimated that 16.6 million people experienced personal identity fraud in 2012, with financial losses totalling $24.7 billion. It can take anywhere between a few hours and over 5,000 hours in order to get an identity back once it is stolen. About 10% spent more than a month clearing up the problems due to identity theft. The more time you need to spend to resolve the issues, the more likely you are to experience problems with work or personal relationships: of those who spent six months or more on the aftermath of identity theft, 47% experienced severe emotional distress.
There are several kinds of identity theft that everyone should watch out for. Here are a few of the most popular:
Identity theft is insidious and will creep up on the average person without knowledge and can be done over a period of years.
One of the ways that an individual can lose their identity is through a variety of Internet scams. Some of the most common are:
The point is: No one is above being scammed by identity thieves, and the scams are becoming more sophisticated. You should check scam alerts often because they change frequently. You can do this by going to the Federal Trade Commission Website.
In 1998, Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act (18 U.S.C. § 1028.) to make identity theft a federal felony. Check with your state to see whether there is a law in your state about identity theft. The federal government will not get involved in an investigation unless the loss is substantial, but states will usually investigate the smaller ones.
There are several things you should do if you feel you are a victim of identity theft:
Before you set up a fraud alert on your credit file, it is important to know what it is and what it does. When you ask for a fraud alert, the major credit bureaus will basically put a note on your account. When someone tries to open an account at a department store, a bank or other places in your name, or if they try to get a new credit card, cell phone or other credit, you would be contacted by phone.
Under normal circumstances, if the store or lender can't get you by phone, they would not open the account. The challenge is that the creditor isn't required by law to do this, so many will ignore the rule and open the account anyway.
Fraud alerts are a good idea anyway because from that point on, you have a record that you had placed it on a certain date. Fraud alerts are to be opened within 24 hours and you should get a confirmation. They stay on your file for 90 days, so you will have to renew it at the end of that time. You can also remove your fraud alert but it must be done in writing.
Some states let you freeze your credit so that the only way someone can use it or get access to your credit report is if you give them the ability to do so. To unfreeze the information temporarily, you will get a PIN and other information. This will not damage your credit report or your credit score. Some states let anyone do this while others only allow it if you have been a victim of identity theft.
In most states, it is free to freeze your credit if you have been a victim of identity theft. If not, it can cost you $10. It is a good idea to check with your state to see how they handle this issue.
The Identity Theft Report will use the Theft Complaint Form and it will have more details than most identity reports. It will give enough detail to show to any company or lender that you have been a victim of identity theft. When you file this report, you then notify the credit bureaus and they can block fraudulent information from appearing on your report. Find out more about how you can file an Identity Theft Report at the FTC website.
The challenge is that there is no real way to protect yourself from identity theft because it happens all the time and very quickly. You are always moving through your life by carrying some form of identification. This is why it is virtually impossible to stop it. However, there are several things you can do:
LifeLock is considered the best company of its type and has won several American Business Awards. You have heard of them because of CEO Todd Davis, who has put his social security number out on radio, television, billboards and anywhere else he can think of. The point is that he is so sure that you are protected by his company that he uses it himself.
They put fraud alerts on your credit report every 90 days to make companies check with you before they open an account in your name. They use a proactive defense, so they stop identity theft before it happens. Other companies wait until you have the problem before they fix it. LifeLock guarantees you will be protected up to a million dollars. This makes the program well worth the money.
Other options include software programs like IdentityForce. This program searches for potentially stolen personal information online and gives you an ID health score to help you assess your risk level. If you check out other companies like LifeLock, you can probably find a review or a comparison chart on the Internet about them.
Children can become victims of identity theft, and it often takes longer to find out about it. Generally, a parent or close relative takes the child's social security number to open accounts, get credit cards or obtain bank accounts. Usually, you will not know about this until the child gets older and they apply for their first credit. By then, the damage is done.
The challenge with child identity theft is that when an application is made, no one checks the age of the applicant. This means that anyone who has access to a child's personal information can take advantage of it. You can find out more about what to do when your child has become a victim of identity theft at the Identity Theft Resource Center.
There are several ways to get more information about identity theft and identity theft protection. Here are a couple to get you started:
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