Identity Theft - How much do you really know?

The cost of Identity Theft – Part I in the Identity Theft Series

Identity Theft - How much do you really know?

Identity Theft – How much do you really know?

The Identity Theft Post Series

Identity theft is a real and major concern for over 60% of Americans and most of the world’s adult population in general. We decided to tackle the issue in a three parts series of posts to help our readers gain better understanding and insight to what identity theft really is, what damages it harbors and how to identify and cope with it. This is the first post in series.

How much do you really know about Identity Theft?

Identity theft is probably one of the scariest things that can happen to anyone. It is also, perhaps, the most brutal and damaging form of crime in general and cybercrime in particular. Why? Because when someone steals your identity, it is not just about money. Identity Theft is an act whereby a third party obtains enough details about you to “legally” impersonate you and act in your name, use your bank accounts and credit cards and even live your life. However, your identity is not just about your name, your social security number or your credit card details. It is about who you are, what you know, what you do…and most importantly, it is about who you are connected to! And the easiest and most common way to get to those details about you and steal them is through your computer or your online activities.

Identity theft damages costs money and a lot of it, and take considerable time to repair (if at all possible). But stop for a moment and consider what would happen if someone stole your identity and committed some horrible crime in your name… what if someone steals your identity in order to frame you and avoid being caught? This is what makes identity theft one of the worst crimes out there.

So what are the real costs of Identity Theft?

This man in South Africa found out in 2008 his identity was stolen. Now, 5 years later he is still dealing with the intricate bureaucracy of fixing the damages. The identity thief used his ID number to take out a number of personal loans,which were of course never returned. As a result the man lost his house and, although it took years to get the bank to drop accusations and clear his credit profile, he has lost his credit profile completely and cannot secure a loan to pay for his home or any other thing.

According to the victim he has now spent over 100k South African Rands in (futile) attempt to restore his identity, credit profile and get his house back (or any other house for that matter).

The hard data about Identity Theft

Last year Mashable advertised an infographic showing the costs and damages of identity theft in 2009-2010. The data is frightening.  In 2009 alone there were over 11 million victims of identity theft in the United States. This inconceivable number is in addition to all other forms of cybercrime victims  and in addition to the identity theft victims from other places in the world (like the man in the story above). Roughly speaking this means 1 in every 10 American consumers has been a victim of identity theft.

Most Identity theft victims learn about the crime within 3 months, making it easier and less expensive to handle but even so, the average costs are close to $5000 and quite a lot of it comes out of the pocket of the victim (legal consult, paperwork, loss of work hours…).

Still, surprisingly (or not) almost half of the victims (43%) knew the perpetrator.

This is what makes prevention and detection key elements in handling identity theft. In our next post we will discuss the ways identity thieves operate and how you can detect identity theft attempts.