Identity theft is a serious problem that seems to be getting worse and worse as the Internet gains in popularity. The ease with which information is transmitted online often results in easy identity thefts. Few people suspect that a criminal might be sending them email or watching what websites they visit, but this is probably the case for most of us. Something like ten million Americans suffer from identity theft every year. Throughout the world hundreds of billions of dollars are lost because of this epidemic. The crime is difficult to prosecute because it is so difficult to locate identity thieves. By using your identity through electronic means they make it quite difficult to trace themselves. Identity theft also results in serious social and emotional repercussions, as many people claim to experience a strong feeling of distrust after a theft. Most of them only find out about the problem through indirect means, when they go to take out a loan or apply for a job. Few of us realize just how devastating it would be to lose our good credit ratingâ€”employers actually do care about what you do with your money.
One study showed that something like fifty six percent of all fraud can be tied to Internet identity theft. This means that the Internet accounts for more than half of all identity theft, and we can expect this statistic to only increase in the future. This is partly because of the ease of starting phishing scams. Phishing is a form of identity theft where someone sends you an email claiming to be someone elseâ€”usually your bank or a government institution. They promise that something good will happen (or maybe that something bad will not happen) if you send them your personal information. Although you might not think that you could fall for this scam, some of them have become very convincing and clever.
Of the victims of identity theft, something like sixty five percent claim that there information was used to open a new line of credit. Another thirty percent claimed that their identity was used to open a new cellular phone line. This means that many online identity thefts could result in credit cards being opened in your name. These cards would then be used but never paid, meaning that your credit would suddenly plummet. Many victims report that it was very difficult to restore their credit, or to even contact a credit reporting agency. With bad credit it could be impossible to take out a loan, or to find a new job. About half of those reporting an identity theft also said that they were responded to by the police only about half of the time. This is partly understandable because identity theft is very difficult to trace.
What all these statistics mean is that you need to be very, very careful when doing anything online. Watch for phishing scams and any sort of email that tries to direct you to a website. Avoid paying for anything on a site without a secure payment method, and especially at sites that appear a little strange or that are not used often. In fact, a good rule is to generally never buy anything on sites except for the most obvious and popular ones. You might want to invest in some good anti spyware and phishing software, which can help to cut down on the problem. Together we can win the war against online identity theft, but it will require some discipline and education. Be smart and protect your identity!