Identity theft is an alarming problem in our society today. Millions of people suffer from its consequences each year. Something like two hundred and thirty billion dollars a year are snatched from honest people by identity thieves. That’s probably a larger amount of money than most small countries earn in a year. The tragedy of identity theft is that it impacts everyone, both rich and poor. Thieves don’t distinguish much with identity theftâ€”they prey on anyone they can get, often ruining credit and causing bankruptcy.
The problem has become increasingly worse because the Internet allows us to so freely exchange information. Although in many respects a positive invention, the Internet also causes some serious concerns when it comes to security issues. We make purchases, monitor bank accounts, and send personal information through email systems. All of these systems are volatile and potentially could be breached or broken into. We are also often the victims of email scams that trick us into disclosing our identities to eager thieves. However, you should realize that online identity theft only accounts for a portion of the total cases. Many identity thefts occur when someone simply steals your mail and activates a preapproved credit card. Take a look at these statistics and you will start to see why you need to be careful about identity theft:
Something like ten million Americans become the victims of an identity thief each year. Of these, most will spend something like three hundred hours trying to recover lost income and dealing with the legal problems associated with their case. About forty percent of them will not actually realize that the crime has been committed until some months after, although it will probably take them about five months to a year to finally recover from the incident.
The chances are good that in most of these cases the victim could lose as much as fifteen thousand dollars, although the amount would certainly not be less than two thousand. About sixty percent of the victims claim that their identity is used to open new credit lines, with another sizable portion suggesting that they have had check fraud committed in their name. About ten percent of victims also claim to have had warrants issued for their arrest. In many cases the police can only respond to about half the total number of incidents, so there is a pretty good chance that you will have little legal help in catching and punishing your thief. Many people also report a high incidence of emotional problems after an identity theft, including high stress levels and a sense of distrust or fear about the world.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that identity theft is not a serious business. With this many people affected there is a good chance that you or someone you care about will either suffer from identity theft or will have someone attempt an identity theft on them. In fact you have probably already avoided several scams online by not responding to spam or junk emails. By following a few basic rules most of us can avoid identity theft altogether. We need to watch what we do online very closely, avoiding sending any personal information in the form of emails to anyone. We need to also keep our mail in a locked mailbox and shred any waste documents that might contain personal information. Following these couple rules could save you and your loved ones thousands of dollars and years of heartache. Let’s fight identity theft togetherâ€”be smart and stay informed.