5 Reasons Everyone Should Know About Identity Theft
By R. Kurtz (Kurt) Holloway and Elizabeth P. Lester, project intern and contributing author
The first in series of articles designed to inform about identity theft and what to do if you become a victim.
1. Your Money, Reputation and Well-Being are at Stake.
Identity theft is defined by the Federal Trade Commission as the fraudulent use or attempted use of private personal information such as: your driver’s license, social security number, date of birth, address, credit card information, banking and other account information and generally anything that identifies or belongs to you. Once this information is stolen the damage can be enormous and the emotional and financial strain of recovering from this damage can be overwhelming. In some cases of extensive identity theft, a victim may not only struggle to reclaim his finances but also his reputation and it will likely be very difficult.
2. Everyone is Vulnerable, Especially Older Adults.
Everyone, from children to older adults, is a potential identity theft victim, and older adults are most frequently targeted. The FBI website lists a number of factors for this including misplaced trust, a retirement “nest egg” and reluctance to report the crime. An important step toward protecting yourself is to understand how devastating this crime can be.
3. Every Place You Store and Use Personal Information is Vulnerable.
Since 1998 identity theft has been officially considered a federal offense. This type of theft can occur by home burglary and often involves more discreet methods of stealing such as: scanners on an ATM , stealing your mail or trash, using letter, email, telephone or internet scams and infecting your computer, tablet or smartphone with a virus to gain security information. Sometimes your personal information is stolen from the places where you shop or do business.
4, Your Personal Information Can Be Used to Hurt You.
Once your information is stolen, the possibilities for using it are almost endless. Common types of ID theft include credit card fraud, utility services fraud, fake student loan and other loan fraud, fake tax returns for refunds, home title and mortgage fraud, medical services fraud and criminal record fraud to name a few. These different types of fraud involve either stealing from existing accounts or creating new ones under the victim’s name.
5. It's a Long Road to Recovery.
When a thief uses your personal information to create new debt accounts, file fraudulent tax returns or commits other acts with your identity, these can be the hardest to fix. This is because most creditors do not have a face to face relationship with the victim, and therefore it is harder to verify the fraud and demonstrate that theft has occurred. Additionally, the fraudulent accounts can be difficult to identify early on since the victim is unaware that any fraud has occurred until the bad debt or other problem is already in place. Stopping the fraud, correcting your records, recovering lost money and reputation and getting back to “normal” may be a long and bumpy road. Knowing what to do in advance will help.
The type of theft involving new creditors, as well as identity theft of existing accounts, will be the central focus for our series of articles. The articles will be organized into three categories which will offer insight as to what the immediate course of action should be if you fall victim to identity theft, what measures should be taken to protect yourself from further harm, and ways in which you can ensure your security in the future. Protecting yourself from identity theft and knowing what to do if it does occur is vitally important for preserving your finances, reputation and well-being. Look for the next article in this series which will address what to do first if identity theft happens to you.