Why Identity Theft is a Serious Problem in Today’s Modern World

By  //  June 28, 2021

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A victim of identity theft often suffers for years after the incident, but many still view a stolen credit card, a hacked email, or a virus-ridden computer as a one-off incident. What’s even less understood is how banks, the government, and law enforcement treat identity theft, whether you were negligent or not.

In the modern world, identity theft is a serious problem difficult to solve.

The Rising Worry of Identity Theft

About 1 in 15 Americans were victims of identity fraud in 2019, and 33% of US adults have experienced identity theft, which is twice the global average. Most American’s aren’t knowledgeable on how to protect themselves from happening a second time, as 1 in 5 victims experience this crime more than once. Education to prevent this issue should be prioritized.

Identity theft is a common consequence when a data breach occurs, but the recent pandemic has seen an uptick in scams. Taxpayers lost over $200 billion to unemployment identity theft since March 2020, and over $400 million was lost due to coronavirus-specific scams. 

Identity Theft Targets Everyone, Including Children and Seniors

Among those affected by identity theft, the highest rates are among children, military personnel, and the elderly. While children and the elderly are common targets due to lack of knowledge or naivety, military personnel have little access to their credit files and can’t stop an attack once it starts. Unfortunately, about 1.3 million children are affected by identity theft; half are less than 6.

Identity theft prevention software can come in handy for these individuals, as it will add an extra layer of protection against loss of savings or being charged for a tax or fraud-related crime.

Identity Theft Negatively Impacts Your Life

Identity effects can impact you financially, emotionally, physically, and socially.

Financial Difficulties

Most identity theft victims can’t just call up their bank and expect their money back, but even if the total money you lose is minimal, you still need to go through the following recovery process.

■ Disputing the fraudulent activity as transactions not made by you.

■ Working to restore your credit back to normal, regardless of proof.

■ Closing bank accounts, opening new accounts and changing passwords.

■ Speaking to the Social Security Administration to ensure your SSN wasn’t used.

■ Working with the IRS to fix your tax information to avoid fines and penalties. 

When a thief takes over your account, they may be affecting your retirement, your children’s education, or your mortgage payments. Some victims have had to ask for government assistance while recovering from their financial difficulties.

Emotional Stress

Identity theft can trigger many emotions. You’ll likely feel angry, regretful, or embarrassed. You may even question your self-worth, feel helpless, or blame yourself. On average, 74% of identity theft victims felt stressed, 60% reported anxiety, and 8% stated they felt suicidal. Many victims say they have trouble sleeping, eating, or become depressed or isolated as a result.

Physical Toll

The Identity Theft Resource Center ran numerous studies on the physical impact of identity theft. Emotional stress, in general, can lead to more sick days, a higher likelihood of being late, and mental illness. 29% of victims reported new physical conditions after experiencing identity theft, like body pain, heart and stomach issues, sweating, and difficulty sleeping.

Social Withdrawal 

Hackers could damage your reputation, put your job on the line, or create new, fraudulent accounts pretending to be you. Thieves could affect your relationships by asking your friends and family for financial assistance or by revealing private information to them. An employer may see something the hacker posts and fire you because they thought it was you.

Tips on How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Although there’s no guarantee you won’t be a victim of identity theft, there are ways you can make yourself an unlikely target. Hackers will move on if you use prevention tactics.

  • Freeze your credit, so no one can open new credit cards in your name.
  • Never give out your SSN to anyone you don’t trust.
  • Avoid phishing and spoofing scams by researching emails or phone numbers.
  • Use strong passwords and multiple authentication steps.
  • Use alerts if transactions were made from your account.
  • Keep an eye on your mailbox to prevent porch pirates from stealing your mail.
  • Shred all of your statements, so thieves don’t steal them from the garbage. 
  • Monitor your financial and medical statements and your credit reports.
  • Use digital wallets only from your mobile device, which should be password protected.

Staying diligent will help prevent future identity theft from happening to you or your family.