A typical victim spends on average $800 and 175 hours over 23 months to clean up his or her credit and erase $18,000 in fraudulent charges. The Federal Trade Commission reports that stolen credit cards and fake official documents accounted for $5 billion in losses to individuals while cost to banks and businesses was as much as $50 billion.
Identity theft has skyrocketed in recent years and is now the number one consumer crime in the United States, although the very nature of the crime makes it difficult to provide precise statistics. Four out of five victims of identity theft has no idea how, when or where their personal financial information was stolen. The first crime – the theft of someone’s personal information – could have occurred days or even months before the victim gets any indication there is a problem. The second crime – fraudulent use of that stolen information – can happen at different times as well. People tend not to report these cases to police but we encourage them to do so.
There are some simple steps people can take to MINIMIZE the risk of ID theft:
- Shred any documents containing personal financial information before tossing away
- Mail bills from secure location like a post office mailbox
- Do not carry extra credit cards, your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport
- Consider installing a locking mailbox at home or use a post office box
- Check credit reports once a year
If it happens to you, there are four steps you should take. First, contact one of the three major credit reporting bureaus to report the fraud. Second, contact the creditors for the accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently to close those accounts. Third, file a police report with the jurisdiction where the crime occurred or contact your local police department to file a report. And finally, file a complaint with the FTC. The FTC maintains a database that law enforcement can use to assist with investigations.