Few of us realize just how serious of a problem identity theft is. There are literally millions of Americans afflicted by this terrible problem each year, with billions of dollars lost in earnings. Identity theft affects people in many ways, both social, psychological, and financial. When someone takes thousands of dollars from you using your identity you naturally feel cheated and attacked. Many people report feeling general depression and shock about the incident for some time after. Although we hear statistics about all sorts of things all the time, do we realize what they really mean in terms of our day to day life?
Perhaps some statistics are unimportant, but those pertaining to identity theft are something you need to pay attention to. These statistics reflect some of the real severity of the problem and how difficult it is to fix it. Much of identity theft surrounds business and business transactions. Phishing scams, for example try to get you to send personal information to a business, bank, or other organization under false pretenses. Many people are robbed when someone creates a fake Internet site that appears to be the property of a legitimate business. Thieves know that much of our financial information comes through the mail so they wait for us to leave our homes and then take what they want. In all of these examples something pertaining to our financial life or business is under attack. The examples help to show that as a consumer you need to be very careful about identity theft. Consider these statistics:
The top consumer complaint to the FTC for the past five years has been identity theft. Many of these incidents related to some sort of credit card or check fraud. In most cases the victim does not even know that they have been robbed of their identity until it is too late (almost ninety percent said that they only found out when applying for a job or loan). Something like ten million Americans suffer from an identity theft every year, meaning that there is some sort of crime committed every minute or two. About half of victims will get a response the first time they attempt to contact the police about the incident, which is understandable given the difficulty of investigating these crimes. This means that you could very easily become the next victim of identity theft and might not be able to do much about it other than suffering the consequences.
If these statistics scare you, you should think about taking some basic steps to ensure your safety and the safety of your family. Talk to your kids about phishing scamsâ€”these cleverly designed scams to get you to send personal information. Most phishing scams demand or request information, claiming that they are a bank or other organization trying to benefit you. You should also tell them to never purchase anything online unless you have seen the site before. Make sure that any personal documents containing sensitive information are shredded before they are put in the garbage or recycling. You might also want to invest in a new mailboxâ€”something with a lock. These are just a few of the basic steps you can take to help ensure your safety and the safety of your family. Because identity theft tends to occur around business and commercial activity, be particularly careful about where you shop and what websites you visit. Only purchase things from established sites with secure payment methods. One false move could end up costing you thousands of dollars.