Identity theft on the decrease--NOT

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Fact is, at first glance, yes, the headline was partly true: identity theft did decrease last year. In its eighth annual survey of consumers, Javelin Research found that the number of ID theft victims fell from an estimated 11 million in 2009 to 8.1 million in 2010, by far the largest drop in the history of the survey. Great news -or so I thought. People are finally getting the message and protecting their most precious asset--their personal identity--and this is resulting in a decrease in the number of cases of identity theft nation wide.  I immediately changed my viewpoint from "great news" to "here we go again," though, as I read a little further and discovered that the survey results didn't really support the claim that identity theft was actually on the decrease.  In fact, the author goes on to say that "The survey results don't prove that overall identity-based fraud is on the wane."  We should all be reminded occasionally to read beyond the headlines!

Javelin Research does a good job sifting and compiling data.  Their research is sound.  But as with all data, there are ways to interpret the numbers--highlighting some and downplaying others--in ways I worry can give people a false sense of security. Consumers could read good news like "ID theft decreases" and walk away with the misplaced belief that they can let their guard down. Identity theft is still a very big problem, folks.  Recovering from identity theft is still no walk in the park.  Cyber criminals and identity thieves are still out there, using more and more sophisticated means to separate you from your money and your peace of mind.

Here's a few points on my take on the new survey.

The number of basic credit card thefts and misuse of credit cards decreased last year.  That's great.  However, as credit card theft recedes, the next wave is hitting the shore: debit card fraud.  Debit cards enjoy fewer bank protections and it can be harder to recoup your losses if someone uses yours fraudulently. Take some basic precautionary steps--like changing your PIN number regularly and checking your bank statements often--and use a credit card, not a debit card, for online shopping. Just be using a card that is not linked directly to your bank account, you could save yourself some pretty large hassles.

As if we didn't have enough to worry about with the cards we actually have, now there's an uptick in the creation and use of counterfeit credit and debit cards.  Criminals can construct--from stolen data--enough information to set up bogus credit card accounts that can be used online, over the phone, or through the mail.  Before the accounts can be detected, they've made off with thousands.  Just another reason to be careful with your personal data!

The cost of identity theft has increased, too.  It now costs the victim more time and more money to recover from an ID theft than it used to.  It used to take an average of 41 hours to resolve an id theft (which is a huge number to begin with); it now takes 59 hours. Yet another reason why I utilize services that will help me detect, and recover from any misuse of my information. In fact, the reported number of hours it takes to recover from fraud mean it's nearly impossible to do so without doing much of the clean up during working hours--which means losing job productivity and in some cases causing you to lose pay. 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 battle with the credit bureaus, banks and bureaucracy to recover your losses when you face a case an identity theft. In addition, the survey notes that monetary losses jumped from $387 to $631--and that's per incident.  Considering the fact that ID theft can happen in bunches to the same person, the bills can really add up.  

Social networkers are still particularly at risk.  The survey suggests that consumers who've used social media tools like Twitter and Facebook for at least five years are twice as likely to be hit with ID theft as others. With today's advances in technology and a spike in creative scams circulating through popular online social networking sites, everyone needs to be on guard to the latest tricks used to get you to divulge personal information. Malware and viruses can be installed with the click of a link.  Remember to practice safe surfing and don't enter your password or click on a link unless you are absolutely sure of the origin of the request.

It's important to remember that id theft is about much more than credit and debit cards.

Today's criminals use our identities to file false tax returns, obtain jobs, medical services, access equity lines of credit and commit other crimes.  We would be reckless, unwise and perhaps regretful if we overlooked the sophisticated ways criminals have come up with to both steal and then utilize our names and identities.  Just because it stops sleeting outside doesn't mean it is safe to run down the icy street, just like if car thefts are reported to be decreasing it doesn't mean you should stop locking your car doors. We all still need to be careful. Make sure you are in control of your identity -before someone else is.

A few more Javelin findings include:

* Eleven states showed increases in fraud over 2009: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. Six states showed decreases: California, Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma, Vermont and Washington.

* So-called "friendly fraud"--identity fraud committed by people known to the victim, such as a relative or roommate--grew 7 percent in 2010. And friendly fraud hits the less wealthy harder; it's more likely to affect consumers earning $50,000 or less annually.

* "Change in physical address" was the No. 1 method of account takeover reported by victims.

The Javelin study isn't all bad news, but it certainly isn't good.  We have to read beyond the headlines, be proactive, keep our guard up--and continue to fight against all forms of identity theft.

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Identity theft is now arising in number of victims. This is one of the major problems that our community is currently dealing with. We must protect ourselves from these fraudulent people.

Identity theft has become a major, major problem! And living without protection is like living in a crime infested neighborhood and not having protection on your home. You would probably at least have a really good guard dog and a fence right? Well, not protecting your identity today is the equivalent of living in that neighborhood and refusing to even lock your door. It’s so sad that it’s come to this, but there are always tradeoffs in life. Because we want better medical coverage and a nicer car we pay more to protect and insure them.
Likewise, with something as amazing as the World Wide Web there come tradeoffs also. One tradeoff for us having access to almost everything is that others have access to almost everything about us, our information. And that includes our personal information like social security numbers, banking information and even your medical and criminal history.
Luckily there is a lot of information out to help us understand and protect ourselves from these heartless criminals.

The number of identity theft is truly outrageous! These thieves don't really give up and they find lots of ways to get what they want that's why it's imperative to subscribe to companies that will protect you the most regardless of cost. Even if it is expensive, at least you're not risking your identity to crimes like this. And yes, I totally agree that it may have decreased but it is still there with another target. Thanks for posting this!

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