Recent studies estimate that there are 10 million victims of identity theft annually - and that number is rising. Stealing someone's identity today is relatively easy, and the payoffs can be huge for an offender. The average amount netted from a bank robbery today is about $3,500, while the average amount netted from identity theft is $17,000. Thanks to the Internet, offenders don't even have to leave their own home to commit identity theft, which makes it less risky than robbing a bank and very profitable because they can victimize many people or even just one person repeatedly. Becoming a victim of identity theft can be frustrating, devastating, and can sometimes take years to recover from. Recovering or reestablishing your credit or good name can be a lengthy process, but there are resources to assist you.
Identity theft involves acquiring key pieces of someone's identifying information, such as name, address, date of birth, social security number, and/or mother's maiden name in order to commit, aid, or abet any crime. This information enables a thief to commit various types of fraud, including taking over financial accounts of victims, opening new accounts, making purchases, applying and getting loans or other benefits, renting apartments, establishing utilities, or committing crimes under another's identity.
Here are some of the basic forms of identity theft:
There are many ways that thieves can steal your information:
While it is impossible to completely eliminate your risk, there are many ways to reduce the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft, or to minimize the impact if your information is compromised.
If you become a victim of identity theft, swift and well documented action is essential to reduce the impact. The sooner that identity theft is discovered and action is taken, the less financial and time loss to the victim.
MAINTAINING DETAILED, ORGANIZED, AND THOROUGH RECORDS IS VITAL
Close any accounts that were accessed or compromised.
Keep a detailed log of all contacts with agencies including date and time of calls, copies of all written correspondence (both sent and received), etc. Report the fraud to the major credit bureaus.
Create a fraud alert on your credit reports.
Request your free copies of your credit report. Your credit report is free if you are a victim of fraud.
Complete the FTC ID Theft Complaint form and report to the FTC.
Report to law enforcement and get copies of the police report.
Request information on fraudulent accounts. Share this information with law enforcement.
Contact additional fraud departments for creditors on affected accounts.
Review credit reports. Contact credit bureaus if there is any inaccurate information.
Document with follow-up letters. Send letters certified mail with a return receipt.
Notify the US Postal Inspector if your mail has been stolen or tampered with.
Get your free annual credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com
Identity Theft Resource Center
Fight Identity Theft
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Social Security, Office of the Inspector General
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
US Postal Inspection Services
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Internet Crime Complaint Center