Identity theft statistics are shocking. And we are told that it will only become worse, before it gets any better. Are you likely to be affected?
According to recent studies, up to 7,000,000 people become identity theft victims each year, in the United States alone. That’s over 19,000 cases a day, or 799 cases an hour. Whichever way you look at it, these are shocking figures. And with more and more people using the Internet, online banking, and other hi-tech services, things aren’t likely to improve any time soon.
In fact, another research, a survey conducted on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission recently, tells us that the situation is even worse. According to the FTC survey report, 4.6% of the US population were identity fraud victims last year – that’s 10 million people.
According to the FTC figures, if someone fraudulently opens a new credit card or another loan account under your name, on average you can expect the dollar amount to go to about $10,200. That’s just an average amount.
To clean up your name, and your credit rating, you will need to deal with this experience. You can expect to spend between $500 and $1,200 of your own hard-earned money cleaning up the mess. You can also expect to invest between 30 and 60 hours of your time.
The above figures are just cold statistics. They say nothing about the emotional trauma, through which you are likely to go when it happens to you. It’s all very well to read and hear about bad things that happen to other people. It is quite different when the same thing happens to you, or your loved one.
Is there anything you can do in order to protect yourself? There is. Quite a bit actually. It’s all based on common sense and, while there are no guarantees in life, you will minimise the risk and make the life of an identity thief a lot harder.
Funny thing about thieves. They don’t like working hard. If you make it hard enough for them, they will usually go away – to find an easier target.
One of the common-sense things you can do in order to protect yourself, and your family, is to make yourself aware of the current scams that may affect you.
The most infamous one at the moment is so a called ‘phishing’ scam. In a nutshell it looks like this:
You get an email that looks like it was sent from your bank. They ask you to log in to your online account and verify some of your details. For your convenience, there is a link included right in the email. All you have to do is click on it an log in. Don’t ever!
The moment you click on that link and log in, the scam artists have your login ID and password recorded. This will enable them to log in to your account and within hours, or days, your account will be cleaned out!.
There are two common-sense approaches to deal with this.
First, you have to realise that your bank already has all the details they need to operate your online account. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t be able to open it in the first place. So, you can most likely quite safely delete the email and forget about it.
Secondly, if you have any doubts as to the authenticity of the email, you can get the bank’s phone number from your local phone book and give them a call. Tell them about the email you received and ask if they tried to contact you. I bet they are going to be as surprised as you are.
And just remember: Whatever you do, never, ever, log in to your bank account, or any other sensitive account for that matter, right from an email. You already have the login link somewhere in your records. If not, go to the bank’s main page and look for an online login page.