Identity Fraud Costs You More Than a Name

By: MIKE SELVON

If you have ever received a call from a collection agent claiming you owe money for a loan you don't recall applying for, you very well could be a victim of identity fraud. All someone needs is your name, social security number, date of birth and account numbers to ruin you financially.

This information is easier to obtain that you think, and before you realize it, you are a victim of identity fraud.

There are several common ways identity fraud is carried out. Online identity theft, considered to be the most popular form of identify fraud, is only one. Another method has been nicknamed "dumpster diving," which involves stealing mail by rummaging through someone's garbage for identifying documents.

These often include discarded receipts and paid bills, which all have identifying information on them that thieves find useful. One method used to fight identity theft is quite simple and effective: Consumers can reduce the risk of becoming the victims of identity fraud by buying and using a paper shredder. That way, no information of potential importance leaves the house intact.

Have you ever received an email from some stranger overseas claiming that you have inherited millions of dollars but have to send them your account number so they can wire it to you? Have you ever gotten a message from your bank asking for information about you, but you know they already have all that information?

If you can answer yes to either of these questions, you may have been singled out as a potential victim of online identity theft. This identity fraud tactic is known as "phishing." There is no trick to fighting identity fraud like this, save using common sense. If you aren't expecting an email from a trusted source or if you don't know the sender, it is safer to just delete the email.

Of course, the biggest way identity theft gets perpetrated is the most recognizable. Hackers take a more direct approach to fraud. They break into computers and steal the information they need. Again, there's a good way to fight identity theft of this type: Purchase good virus protection and firewall software to block unwanted intruders from your computer.

A series of three-year surveys that ended in 2006 show that, while there has been a decrease in the number of victims of identity fraud, the cost rose to $56 billion dollars last year. More statistics show that:

The average time a victim takes to fight identity theft is 600 hours. 3/4 of victims who responded to the survey said that the crime involved someone getting their hands on a credit card. The impact of online identity theft and identity fraud is similar to that of violent crimes for the victims.

The problem of identity fraud isn't just in the United States. In Europe, the British have crunched some numbers, reporting that identity fraud has cost their economy a shocking 1.7 billion pounds.

Identity Theft
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