Part 6: Identity Theft and Your Credit
Criminals know the way to steal your identity, and the worst part is that it’s not all that difficult. You know all those credit card applications you get in the mail? If you don’t shred them, they can use that to steal your identity.
It’s not above them to sift through garbage just to obtain a social security number or a driver’s license number. Once they have these vital bits of information, it’s easy for them to steal your identity.
What they will do is scary. They will apply for credit cards in your name and max them out within days. They will obtain loans in your name and never make a payment. Then the loan company comes after you for the money. It’s something that affects millions and millions of people each year and it can be a real mess when it comes to your credit report.
As many as 85 percent of all identity theft victims find out about the crime only when they are denied credit or employment, contacted by the police, or have to deal with collection agencies, credit cards, and bills.
A study on the aftermath of an identity theft by the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center found that victims spend 600 hours recovering from the crime because they must contact and work with credit cards, banks, credit bureaus, and law enforcement. The time can add up to as much as $16,000 in lost wages or income.
The number of reported cases of identity theft is increasing steadily. There is no one reason for this, but rather this is due to several ways in which our lives have changed in recent years, all of which make it easier for people to obtain our personal information.
In the United States, Social Security numbers are used more commonly as a means of identification. The Internet has made the transmission of personal information easy and, at times, less secure. Online retailers store our credit card information and contact information in databases we assume to be secure.
Marketing databases not only contain personal information, but they aggregate information on our spending habits as well as contact information. But potentially nefarious employees of these companies could have access to that information. They can then sell it online in chat rooms where criminals meet to swap information.
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