Identity fraud continues to be a hot topic. Identity fraud affects millions of Americans every year with no signs of letting up. In fact, USA Today recently reported that a growing number of identity thieves are selling the information they stole.
Identity Fraud Increasing Every Year
Identity fraud is a common fear, and with good reason. It can be destructive to credit scores, personal finances, emotions and more. In 2010 there were 11.1 million victims of identity fraud in the United States alone, with that number increasing to 12 .6 million in 2012. Women outpaced men with26% more being victimized. In 43% of the cases, the stolen information came from a lost or stolen wallet, credit card, debit card or checkbook. Not only is identity theft prevalent, it is is incredibly costly to its victims. $50 billion of consumer money is lost annually due to fraud, averaging to about $4,849 per victim.
Fraud Takes Immediate Financial Toll
If your information is stolen, the financial woes begin quickly. About 71% of the time, it takes less than a week for fraudulent activity to begin. Sometimes activity is instant. Reporting identity fraud is important for protecting yourself and others, but it is commonly underreported. Before 2010, less than half of all victims ever reported their stolen information to the police. Since the number grew to about 50%, there has been an increase in judicial action resulting in twice the number of arrests and convictions, and three times the number of prosecutions.
How Stolen Information Is Used
Stolen personal information can be used in a variety of ways. Complaints about identity theft indicate that 20% involve credit card fraud, 15% involve government files and/or benefits, another 15% relates to jobs, 13% phone or other household necessities, 11% banks, 4% loans and 24% other. 6% of cases represented attempted identity fraud only.
What You Can Do About Identity Theft
If your wallet, purse or credit card are stolen, the first thing to do is call your credit card companies to report the theft and put a stop notice on the card. The next step is to call the three credit bureaus to report the theft. They can require someone opening a credit account to supply additional information and a photo ID. The can be reached here: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Next, file a police report. This can help you if fraudulent charges are made on your account. The FTC has many resources to help you avoid being a victim of identity theft.