How Much can Identity Theft Affect Your Life?

A detailed view of how identity theft can impact a person, and how to prevent it from happening to you.

How much can identity theft affect your life

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The 2017 Identity Fraud Study, released by Javelin Strategy & Research, found that the overall fraud incidence rate rose 16% to affect 6.15% of U.S. consumers, in 2016. More specifically, $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, compared with $15.3 billion and 13.1 million victims a year earlier.

In the past six years, identity thieves have stolen over $107 billion. The issue is rising year-over-year. According to a recent analysis of U.S. breaches by the Identity Theft Resource Center and CyberScout, hackers were increasingly successful at getting social security numbers in 2016, tool. It’s estimated that more than 19 million were compromised last year.

Javelin writes, “Unfortunately, risks inherent to growing connectivity combined with weak identity verification, the rise of EMV, and the circumvention of antiquated controls created an environment where fraud thrived and everyone paid the price.”

Common types of identity theft that can affect you

According to USA.gov, these types of identity theft are most common:

Child ID theft – Children’s IDs are especially susceptible because the criminal activity could go undetected for many years. By the time a victim of children’s ID theft becomes an adult, the damage has already been done.

About 1.3 million kids are affected by identity theft. 50% are under the age of 6.

Tax ID theft – This type of theft occurs when a thief uses a victim’s social security number to file tax returns with either the IRS or state government.

This form of theft is actually on the decline. The number of people who filed IRS affidavits stating they had been victimized by identity theft dropped 50% during the first nine months of the year compared with 2015, from 512,278 to 237,750, according to USA Today.

Medical ID theft – Is when a thief gets ahold of identifying information like Medicare ID or health insurance member number, and then uses it to get medical services, or to issue fraudulent billing to your health insurance provider.

Between 2015 and 2016 medical identity theft incidents increased 21.7%.  65% of medical identity theft victims in a recent Nationwide study had to pay an average of $13,500 to resolve the crime.

Senior ID theft – Seniors are vulnerable to ID theft because their personal information and financial documents are more frequently revealed during routine tasks:

  • Increased doctor appointments mean more people have visibility into medical insurance information
  • Caregivers and staff at long-term care facilities have access to personal and financial information of their residents.

The most information is exposed, the easier it is to be compromised. According to the Consumer Sentinel Network Fraud complaints by consumer – over 50% of fraud complaints are victims aged 50 and older.

Credit Card Fraud vs. Identity Theft

The most notable difference between credit card fraud and identity theft is how deep the issue can cut. Credit card fraud typically involves a single credit account. If someone steals your identity, the extent of damage can be more widespread. This is because someone can open numerous lines of credit in your name and negatively affect your credit score.

Medical records as a form of identity theft

Medical ID theft is one of the types of identity theft rising fastest. The information in medical records can be used for medical billing fraud as well as identity theft and other big-money scams.

Hackers are now offering stolen medical records on the black market for an incredibly low price -between $1.50 and $10 each. The average profit per record was about $20,000 in 2016.

How long does it take to overcome the ramifications of identity theft?

What is most alarming about identity theft is how long it can take to recover your stolen identity. Many factors will play into the duration of reclamation – how far the thief went, what type of theft you’ve experienced, and how long it took for you to notice – but worst case scenario, which 1 out of 4 victims will deal with is that they will never fully recover their stolen identity.

On the podcast ‘Hackable?’, by McAfee, they address how Identity theft can lead to serious issues.

Let’s say your identity was stolen and the perpetrator used that information to obtain a fake ID under your name. If the thief is ever arrested – for an unrelated crime –  rather than giving their actual information, they can now provide your name. Just like that, you have a criminal record.

A criminal record can result in lost work, income, freedom and years of rectifying the false information.

The DOJ estimates victims experience an average loss of $1,343 but the true cost of identity theft needs to address impacts to credit score, lifestyle, and finances.

Are you an at-risk consumers?

Are your online behaviors putting you at a higher risk of becoming a victim of fraud?  These two behaviors, in particular, will raise your odds of falling victim to identity theft:

Social networkers (46% higher risk of account takeover fraud)

We’ve all heard of oversharing on social media. Criminal activity based on social media information is common. For instance, home burglaries increased as social media became more prevalent because users reveal material possessions they own, where they live and details about when and how long they will be away on vacation. These details can make a home invasion easier, and less risky.

Other more minor points, like sharing your birth date on Facebook, may be overlooked but can make you more susceptible to identity theft.

Online shoppers  (30% more likely to be fraud victims)

Online shopping could account for the sharp rise in “card-not-present” fraud, which increased by 40%  in 2016. Card not present could be autofilled credit card information stored on your computer.

6 tips for protecting yourself

  1. Be smart on social media
  2. Exercise good password habits
  3. Clear credit card information from your browser history
  4. Secure online shopping accounts
  5. Check your credit score for unusual activity like false applications for loans and credit cards
  6. Be alert for suspicious online transactions and withdrawals from your bank accounts

If you believe you are a victim of identity theft report it:

Report identity (ID) theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at IdentityTheft.gov or by phone at 1-877-438-4338.

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