What’s The Big Deal About Identity Theft?
What is the personal data you should protect?

How consumers respond to identity theft crime

My last entry discussed identity theft frequency, amounts lost, and time/money spent fixing the problem from the results of the 2003 Identity Theft survey by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. How we consumers respond (or don't) to identity theft is just as important. Basically, vigilance matters.

The consumers who monitor their credit and discover problems sooner, lose less money and spend less time and money fixing the problem. Survey results summaries:

"When the misuse was discovered within 5 months of its onset, the value obtained by the thief was less than $5,000 in 82% of cases (including all forms of ID Theft). When victims took 6 months or more to discover that their information was being misused, the thief obtained $5,000 or more in 44% of cases."

"No out-of-pocket expenses were incurred by 67% of those who discovered the misuse of their personal information within 5 months of the time the misuse began. Where it took 6 months or more to discover the misuse, only 40% of victims incurred no out-of-pocket expenses."

"New accounts were opened in less than 10% of cases when it took victims less than a month to discover that their information was being misused. New accounts were opened in 45% of cases when 6 months or more elapsed before the misuse was discovered."

"76% of victims who discovered the misuse of their information within one month spent fewer than 10 hours resolving their problems, while in only 20% of cases where it took more than 6 months to discover the misuse were victims able to resolve all of their problems in less than 10 hours."

And, consumers seem to be lax about both monitoring their credit and reporting crimes to the police:

"Only about 25% of victims who participated in the survey said that they had reported the crime to local police. Even with the more serious “New Accounts and Other Frauds” form of ID Theft, only 43% of victims said that they had reported their experiences to local police."

"Only 22% of ID Theft victims said that they had notified one or more credit bureaus about their experiences. Even among those who suffered from the “New Accounts & Other Frauds” type of ID Theft, only 37% contacted a credit bureau. Of those victims who contacted credit bureaus, 62% asked to have a “fraud alert” placed on their credit reports."

Where consumers are somewhat lax, thieves aren't. They are persistent, determined, and will misuse your personal information for a long period of time. From the same survey:

"13% of victims reported that their information was misused for 6 months or more. (For “New Accounts & Other Frauds” ID Theft, 27% of cases involved the misuse of the victim’s information for at least 6 months.) On the other hand, in 26% of all cases of ID Theft the misuse was limited to a single day. (Misuse was limited to a single day in 36 % of cases that only involved the misuse of existing credit cards or card numbers.)"

Next entry: what is the personal information you should protect?

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