Identity Theft: 14 Things You Need To Know

Identity theft is no small problem. It impacts millions of people every year, costing them anything from some minor inconveniences to major money.

For both individuals and businesses, it’s vital to understand what identity theft means for you.

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Most of you know the basics. Shred sensitive documents. Use a document scanning service to archive sensitive data and put important documents in a safe storage space. And so on.

What you might not realize is just how widespread this problem is. In order to wrap your head around the scope of the identity theft issue, consider these salient facts:

• Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America, according to experts in the field.

• According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are now an astounding 99 million instances of identity theft every single year

• Identity theft has a real cost: the average victim loses about $500 and takes up nearly 30 hours of their life to resolve the issue

• Of all complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN), some 14 percent of them are related to identity theft

• You might think most identity is related to financial and credit fraud, but in fact, utility, phone, and employment fraud make almost double the amount of cases (which means preventing such fraud is one of the essential money-saving office tips).

• About 85 percent of identity theft overall involves the fraudulent use of account information, usually credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and so on.

The scale of this problem can be a little shocking. Those in the medical field know it. It’s one of the reasons why they’ve increasingly turned to medical records scanning to protect their patients and to abide by HIPPA regulations.

The idea that this problem could happen to you is backed up by the U.S. Department of Justice. Consider these statistics:

• In some 32 percent of identity theft cases, the crimes are perpetrated by a family member, and another 18 percent of them are perpetrated by a friend or neighbor

• About 8.6 million households, or 7 percent of all households in the U.S., had at least one member who had experienced identity theft in 2010 alone.

So short of converting to a paperless office to better prevent these crimes, what do you do if you have become the victim of identity theft?

Here’s are some things to consider:

• In most cases, banks and creditors hold the victim responsible for only the first $50 of fraudulent charges.

• Catching the problem early is the best way to clean up problems resulting from identity theft.

• If you find you have become a victim, gather all the information possible, then immediately contact your creditors and financial institutions to start on a resolution.

• Consider the use of a credit monitoring service. They will help you keep tabs on your bank, credit cards, and so on.

• Among those who have been victimized by identity theft, fully half of them were able to resolve it in a single day.

• That said, another 30 percent of victims were forced to spend a month or more resolving their problems.

The bottom line is simple: identity theft is not something that happens to other people. It’s a widespread problem that can happen to you – but you can prevent it, or at least minimize the damage, if you’re informed.