The New American Crisis: Identity Theft
The time has arrived! A virtuous 20 year-old young man who has worked fervently at a local restaurant since graduating high school is finally ready to ‘fly the coupe’ from his parents home and move out on his own. He has found a nice, affordable apartment in a nice neighborhood. He has calculated his budget carefully and knows his new solo adventure is within his financial means. He has carefully budgeted rent, utility bills, groceries and daily living expenses. He is thrilled when he discovers he can cover everything and have a little money left over to put away into savings. It’s time to ‘become a man’ and live out his dream!
He leaves for work early to visit the apartment complex and begin the application process. After an hour of reading through agreements, regulations and signing his life away, he heads to work. The complex management then begins their tedious task of going through the ‘approval ritual’ – which includes a background and credit check.
On his way home from a busy day at the restaurant, the young man anxiously stops at the complex to hear the 3 words that will propel him into his exciting future: “You’ve been approved.”
But what he gets instead is shocking and heart-breaking news that his application has been declined due to a property foreclosure, vehicle repossession and $20,000 in bad credit card debt. He will probably never be able to rent or buy anything on credit for the rest of his life. His credit reputation and future have been ruined and scarred for life – and he has never even left the comfort of his parents’ home.
Sometime in the past, someone, somewhere obtained this young man’s Social Security number and date of birth. That was all they needed destroy his life.
It’s happened millions of times before – and will happen millions of times again. Perhaps you know someone who has had their identity compromised. Perhaps you have been a victim yourself. And without taking appropriate precautionary measures, we can fall prey to it in the future.
Identity theft is the fastest-growing white collar crime in North America today. It has become known as “The Crime of the Century”. MILLIONS of people have fallen victim to this heinous crime and thousands more will fall victim as you read this – and most won’t even know about it for several months, when it’s too late to do anything about it.
Here are some alarming statistics:
- The average number of US households affected by identity theft each year is 11.6 million. 1
- The number of households that reported identity theft in 2013 was 7%. 1
- Total financial losses due to identity theft in 2013 was $21 billion. 1
- 85% of theft instances were to existing financial accounts / 15% were new accounts. 2
- 38-48% of victims find out about the identity theft within 3 months. 3
- 9-18% of victims take 4 years or longer to discover that they are victims. 3
(1. StatisticBrain / 2. Bureau Of Justice Statistics / 3. SpamLaws)
Just to name a few.
How do they do it? What information do they need? Why would anyone do such a despicable act? The last 2 questions are the easiest to answer. Identity theft is the easiest crime to get away with – a nearly ‘perfect crime’. By the time a person discovers they have fallen victim to the crime, the culprits have made the source of their crime untraceable. Hence the reason for such a low percentage of solved crimes. These criminals have more than enough time to ‘cover their tracks’ before the crime is even discovered.
There are currently 5 types of common identity theft, with 2 new types rapidly on the rise in our new digital age:
- Driver’s Licenses (Used to destroy your driving record: infractions, accidents, etc.)
- Social Security Numbers (Used to obtain employment and accounts in your name)
- Medical Information (Used to obtain medical care in your name)
- Character/Criminal (Crimes committed in your name: fines, jail, imprisonment)
- Financial (Bank accounts, credit cards & lines of credit, investments, etc.)
- Child (Using SS# & date of birth of minors for credit, employment and accounts)
- Cyber (Using data from multiple people to create a completely fictitious person)
Most people are aware of identity theft, but they aren’t aware of the many areas the thieves target to pull off their crime. Most people I talk to think identity theft is only related to Social Security numbers and think they are safe from it as long as their SS# is safe & secure. They don’t stop to think about the other areas where their personal and sensitive information can be compromised – in a mere matter of minutes.
Something to ponder: in the digital age we live in today, is ANYTHING really and truly ‘secure’? Companies will spend millions of dollars advertising that your personal data is safe and secure with them. But in an age of hacking and cyber compromise, how truly safe and secure is your sensitive information in the hands of others? I remain skeptical – and for good reason. The statistics speak for themselves.
Just the recently-reported national breaches by retailers such as Target and e-Bay are enough to raise speculation.
Having been a victim of identity theft myself in 2007, I know firsthand the feeling of horror and dismay a person feels when they discover they have become a victim of this terrible crime. I also personally know others who have fallen prey. That is why I am compelled to write about this and inform others.
Can we completely protect ourselves from this crime? No. But we CAN take precautionary measures to ensure that the crime is detected shortly after or immediately after it occurs and take action to prevent it from spreading like a wildfire that can destroy our lives and future.
There are programs in place today to address and protect us from this despicable crime. I like to coin the term “ID Theft Insurance” to describe the programs. I encourage you to explore these resources and ask yourself this question: “Is it worth a little money each month to protect my family’s reputation and financial future?” My answer was “Yes, it is.” I faithfully pay a very reasonable fee each month for what my research has discovered to be the best insurance on the market for such a crime. In fact, it was there for me when I became a victim in 2007. They took control and worked with the credit reporting agencies and financial institutions to get everything cleared up in a matter of weeks and restore my identity and reputation to where they were before the crime occurred. That program has paid for itself for the next 10 years.
We can never be too careful in an age of growing identity theft. Be cautious. Be aware. And take precautionary steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from The Crime of the Century. You will be glad you did.
Identity Theft Protection/Awareness/Reduction Resources (With Links):
- Credit Reporting Agencies: Offer Weekly Monitoring Reports (Sent via Email)
- IdentityTheft Shield℠ (Offered by LegalShield & Kroll, Inc.)**
- Identity Guard
- Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Consumer Resource Page
** Personally Recommended