Just How Big of a Problem Is Identity Theft?
One common misconception about identity theft is that it only seriously affects people who are lazy or not careful with their private information. However, that isn’t true at all. Due to the amount of people that have access to your private information at stores, doctor’s offices, and even over the phone, there are many opportunities for strangers to steal your private information without you knowing it. Family identity theft has also become a huge problem, with children unfortunately becoming the victims much of the time. Unlike some crimes where the victim has to break into your home or rob you in person, identity theft can be completed without you even seeing the perpetrator. Your information can be bought and sold online, as well as in person, and often the perpetrator can’t be caught.
Identity theft is not a small problem — it’s actually the fastest growing crime in America, with 9.9 million incidents per year. In 2012, seven percent of people sixteen or older were identity theft victims. Credit card, bank account, and other existing account use comprised 85 percent of the issues, but people who suffered from new accounts being opened in their name were more likely to suffer from serious financial, credit, or emotional distress.
About 14 percent of victims lost $1 or more, but about half lost less than $100. This doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but it doesn’t take into consideration the amount of time that some victims spend trying to clear all of their accounts up, which can take hours or more (half of identity theft victims were able to resolve issues in a day or less.) However, of those who had personal information used improperly, twenty-nine percent spent a month or more fixing the issues.