Identity Theft Impacts more than just Credit

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Anyone who has experienced credit card fraud knows that it is never an easy fix.  I've been through it.  It is time-consuming to have to call the bank and prove that you did not actually spend those thousands of charges on your bill.  It can put a real dent in your life, especially if the fraud happens while you are on vacation. 

And then there are the phone calls you have to make to the many creditors who used that account as a method for automatic payment.  If you don't, when those convenient monthly charges come around--like Netflix, or maybe your newspaper delivery--they are going to be denied because that account no longer exists, and then the creditors are going to come after you.  It's a headache. And when it happens repeatedly -the frustrations mount and headaches intensify -but that's nothing compared to real identity theft.

The kind of identity theft that can ruin your day, your week, your month, your year -is the type that can be much more devastating--and time-consuming and costly to correct. I've been there too. It's the kind that involves the use of someone else's Social Security number, birth certificate, medical records, or other identity-related data.  It can happen to anyone, and it can take years to come to light and in some cases even longer to overcome.  This type of identity theft can occur over and over. And it can cost a bundle--both in dollars and in emotional strain--to recover from.

Take the case of Larry Smith.  Mr. Smith is a Florida resident whose name and personal details were used by someone else.  Over the past 17 years, it is alleged that Joseph Kidd used Smith's birth certificate to obtain medical benefits; all the while, he also used Smith's name and "identity" when committing (and getting caught for) various crimes.  This caused the police to arrest the real Smith, who spent several nights in jail for crimes allegedly committed by Kidd.
The real kicker to this story is that when Kidd was finally apprehended--when Smith's wife finally managed to convince the police that they had the wrong guy--Kidd still managed to use Smith's name and identity.  The police booked him as "Smith" and released him as "Smith," complete with a parole ID card in Smith's name so that Kidd could continue to confuse authorities and use Smith's name--and benefits.

The time, energy, and money the Smiths have invested in trying to get this fraud corrected is staggering.  But it is nothing compared to the emotional toll this event has taken on their lives.  Being jailed for a crime you didn't commit?  Not many of us can even imagine that nightmare -but it happens.   

Most of us can't imagine, either, what Anndorie Sachs has been through. She got a call at her home telling her that she had given birth to a baby addicted to methamphetamines.  Since she hadn't had a baby in over two years, she quickly realized that someone had used her name and records to pay for a labor and delivery.
It wasn't enough that she could assert her innocence--she had to prove to insurance examiners that the birth recorded in her name was not her child.  They questioned her children and they called her employer.  In the end, they believed the truth--that Sachs's medical records had been hi-jacked--but the experience has left her shaken and fearful of another attack on her identity. In 2009, over 300,000 people experienced some form of medical identity theft.  It's true that in the nationwide scheme of things, that's not a large number of people, but for those 300,000 identity theft is an expensive experience, one that could come with life-threatening consequences. 

Then there is Robert Korinke who was enjoying his Christmas dinner when an unexpected visitor came to the door carrying a surprise with him. A notice of a lawsuit. Turns out the Korinke family was being sued for $75,000, plus attorney's fees for unsettled debts on a line of credit they once held with Homecomings Financial. The problem is; this debt was settled and closed, the year before. The couple learned they were victims of identity theft.  

Now consider the case of  Mike Calcutt of Minnesota.  He had his home equity line hacked to the tune of $88,593 and, despite being able to show that whoever faxed in the requests for access were using a signature of his that had been scanned and not signed, he has to pay back the bank.  Every cent--plus a late fee he accrued while he was fighting to prove that he was the victim of fraud.

It seems that since banks and other financial institutions have cracked down on credit card mis-use, the thieves have turned to other, more lucrative and less protected means to steal your money.  If they can't get your credit card, maybe they can get your checking account.  If they can't get your checking account, maybe they can get a foothold in your home equity line.

If you learn your information has been stolen or compromised, whether through a data breach, dumpster diver or a lost or stolen wallet, you're not only at risk for identity theft -but you could find yourself sitting in jail, branded a criminal, and forced to spend your time and money defending your innocence. According to the latest Javelin Research survey as reported in the New York Times, it is now more expensive than ever to recover from an identity theft. While the total number of identity thefts declined,
"...the average consumer out-of-pocket cost due to identity fraud increased to $631 per incident in 2010, up 63 percent from $387 in 2009. Such costs include the expenses of paying off fraudulent debt as well as resolution fees, such as legal costs."

The reported number of hours it takes to recover from fraud (59 hours!) means it's nearly impossible to do so without attempting much of the clean up during working hours--which means losing job productivity and in some cases causing you to lose pay.

The truth is services that utilize today's technology and offer a restoration service can be invaluable when faced with giving up your free (and work) time to cut through the bureaucracy and recover your life---and losses when you face a case an identity theft.
The emotional cost--the time spent on phone calls, wrestling with credit bureaus and banks to restore your good name, the seemingly endless paperwork necessary to undo what some stranger has done to you--can be enormous too. The nominal price of an identity protection service can be pennies by comparison. An identity theft protection service can greatly reduce the risk, take the burden of the occurrence of an identity theft off the shoulders of the consumer and lessen the impact on the consumer's life--when an id theft strikes.

If you don't take identity theft protection seriously, it could sooner or later happen to you.  Even if you do take it seriously, it could still happen to you!  There is no way to prevent it; you can only be as prepared as possible for the aftermath.  If you're not thinking about how to reduce your risk and lessen the impact right now, you should be.

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