In its February 2018 report on identity fraud, the research and advisory firm, Javelin Strategy, offered daunting evidence that identity theft is both growing and getting more sophisticated. “In 2017, there were 16.7 million victims of identity fraud, a record high that followed a previous record the year before.” That number represents a three percent increase in victims over the previous year, and a total consumer loss of $16.8 billion!
As often as you hear or read the words identity theft, their meaning becomes very clear to those who are victims.
So what is identity theft or identity fraud?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.”
An act of identify theft can target one person or vast numbers of people, adults or children, and can be perpetrated by small-time hoodlums or highly sophisticated techno-criminals. In addition to the financial losses, identity theft takes time and resources to untangle. It can affect credit and significantly disrupt peace of mind.
The identify thief can gain access to personal information in a wide variety of ways. Among them are theft of
- mail such as credit card bills, tax documents, etc.
- Social Security number, which is routinely included on numerous forms
- medical records
- computer and/or passwords
- cell phone
- personal information shared on social media (e.g., birthdate, marriage date, etc.)
- information heard via public or private conversations
- ATM cards and codes
Victims of identity theft may not know that anything is wrong until they notice that a wallet or credit card is missing, a mysterious charge shows up on a credit card statement, or a suspicious charge generates a call from the bank.
In our next post, we’ll talk about how to protect yourself from identity fraud, but meanwhile, here is a quick look at what to do if you suspect your identity has been hacked:
- Call the bank
- Call credit card companies
- Call utility companies
- Call investment firms
- Call the police if your loss was physical (wallet stolen, break-in, etc.)
- Call the store or company where the theft took place
- Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft website, report the theft, and launch a recovery plan
- See the FTC’s additional steps and suggestions
At Sente Mortgage, we take your personal information very seriously. We know your ability to buy a home depends on it. If you’re considering a major expenditure, our loan officers are ready to talk with you, and are happy to explain how we protect your personal information. Call us any time.