His hard earned money? Gone. Creditors on his back everyday. Police knocking on his door. His family strained to the breaking point. He didn’t do anything wrong but my business partner’s life got turned upside down a few years back. He became a victim of what is now the fastest growing crime in the world. Identity theft.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, since 1999 over 27 million people in the US alone became victims of this epidemic 10 million more last year. Harris InterActive,a marketing research company, reports that between 2002 and 2003 roughly 19,178 people per day fell victim.
Your identity can be stolen in many ways. For my partner, the thief gained access to his social security number and address then applied for a series of loans in his name. When the bills came due, guess who the creditors and law enforcement held accountable?
He and his family felt the full impact. Identity theft can cripple and even destroy a person’s life. Not just the time loss trying to recover your identity but also the out of pocket expense. U.S.Treasury Secretary John Snow calls identity theft “the greatest threat to consumers and far more insidious and harmful to our national welfare than many people realize.”
The internet doesn’t make it any better with its almost limitless access to information but a great deal of identity theft still comes from the offline world. Wherever it comes from the goal stays the same. Get your personnal information and steal what belongs to you for as long as possible.
In many cases, this can lead to the victim filing for bankruptcy or worse. As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, one man whose identity got stolen recently spent 54 days in jail before authorities realized their mistake.
Yet even when the thief finally gets caught, victims find out all too often the worse part still lies ahead. The recovery of their identity. For my partner, that meant never ending battles with the same credit bureaus that previously gave him good ratings.
They destroyed his credit almost overnight eventhough he did everything they told him to get it restored. The agencies refused to clear his record and instead, started sharing his information with each other. His mortgage rates went thru the roof. He paid more for everything but still got declined. With all of this came the burden and fear of him not knowing if he would ever recover his identity.
Six years later he finally did. He started working with a company that within 90 days restored his credit. His mortgage rate dropped and he went back to paying full price for everything like the rest of us.
And like my partner, all of us risk becoming victims. In San Antonio Texas, television station KENS 5 spoke with a man convicted of identity theft who warned “Don’t take for granted what you have because anybody could take it away – I mean at the snap of a finger.”
He would know. The ways of stealing an identity have turned this crime from nuisance to worldwide crisis.