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10/18/2016
06:00 PM
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Identity Theft Hits Low- To Moderate-Income Victims Hardest

In addition to government assistance, ID theft victims frequently seek financial support from friends, family, and faith-based organizations, according to a study by the Identity Theft Resource Center.

Some 30% of people who have reported criminal identity theft needed government assistance to get back on their feet, according to a new report from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).

The 300-person sample came from those who used ITRC's free services in the last year, many of whom are low- or moderate-income earners, according to Eva Velasquez, president and CEO. And while identity theft doesn't hit these demographic segments more frequently, it does hit them harder because they lack the extra time and money often required to resolve identity theft problems, she says.

In addition to government assistance such as welfare, electronic benefit transfer (EBT), and food stamps, these identity theft victims also sought financial support from friends, family, and faith-based organizations, according to ITRC.

"The big 'aha moment' is that identity theft is affecting all of us, even if you're not a victim," Velazquez adds.

Other key findings from ITRC's annual study, which was underwritten by LifeLock:

  • Of those who shared the additional impact of their identity theft experience with ITRC, 35% had to borrow money, 25% had to sell possessions, and 23% reported moving or relocating.
  • Respondents who dealt with criminal identity theft issues experienced "lost opportunities," including missing work (55%), losing an employment opportunity (44%), and loss of residence or housing (31%).
  • Almost 20% reported significant repercussions when their online accounts were compromised, including job loss (24%), and reputational damage among friends (61%) and colleagues (31%).
  • 44% reported some form of government-related identity theft. Reported instances of state and federal tax fraud were up 15%, resulting in many respondents not receiving refunds.
  • 60% reported new account fraud, up 6% from last year. Increases were reported in the opening of new credit cards, utility accounts, and cell phone service.

"The survey responses provide a comprehensive picture of the true impact of this crime on its victims and confirms that identity theft creates more than just financial hardship for victims – it has the capacity to invade many other areas of their lives," ITRC said in a statement. Identity theft can negatively impact employment, housing, and educational opportunities.

"A lot of people think it won't happen to them; one thing we hear a lot is 'I don't have good credit, so what would they want from me?" Velasquez says. "In fact, nothing could be further from the truth."

If there's a resulting call to action, ITRC would like to see consumers appreciate the value of an uncompromised identity. "As a nation, we don't treat them as valuable – we're so much more worried about credit cards," Velasquez says.

She also points to her organization's SHRED acronym to help protect consumers and their identities:

  • Shred all personal and business documents and strengthen password and privacy settings.
  • Handle personally identifying information with greater care.
  • Read all credit reports regularly for any suspicious activity or unfamiliar transactions.
  • Empty your purse or wallet regularly to minimize impact of lost credentials.
  • Discuss these tips with family and friends.

Velasquez also notes that consumers store lots of important personal data on their smartphones, and then don't bother to use the PIN protection to lock it up.

"Make sure you're not just putting yourself out there and being the low-hanging fruit. Make it more challenging for the thieves," she adds.

Related Content:

Terry Sweeney is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered technology, networking, and security for more than 20 years. He was part of the team that started Dark Reading and has been a contributor to The Washington Post, Crain's New York Business, Red Herring, ... View Full Bio

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T Sweeney
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T Sweeney,
User Rank: Moderator
10/24/2016 | 8:21:39 PM
Re: Undiscovered Vulnerabilities
Interesting, Judith... mind sending what you have to [email protected], please?
jmyerson
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jmyerson,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/24/2016 | 4:26:51 PM
Undiscovered Vulnerabilities
Terry,

I found some vunerabiltties that have not been reported yet in any vulnerability databases.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
10/23/2016 | 10:20:43 AM
Theft
I tend to think this is true of all theft (ID or otherwise), but the stats are certainly eye-opening.  When you're higher up on the economic-empowerment echelon, you tend to have money spread across multiple accounts, and you either have more time to do things and/or you have more money to spend on paying people to take care of things.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
10/23/2016 | 10:19:10 AM
Re: good essay
This is all the more reason why I am concerned rather than excited about Sweden's moves to a cashless society.  Electronic-based cash is subject to all the same problems as anything else electronic-based.
RichardS08701
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RichardS08701,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/20/2016 | 10:21:37 PM
Re: good essay
I noticed one of the study sponsors was LifeLock, so while there is no cybersecurity insurance per se available to individuals, there are many options with respect to credit and ID theft monitoring.  But, as the essay points out, the bigger problem is fixing the problem when it happens.  It is not just financially draning, it is stressful and time consuming to restore your identity with just one organization, never mind the multitude of companies, institutions and organizations that interconnect with your identity.  On top of that, other studies have reported that up to 70% of all ID theft cases involve legal issues.  Only one company offers full ID restoration and legal representation, and contractually offers to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to fully restore your identity: LegalShield/IDShield.  Check them out.
T Sweeney
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T Sweeney,
User Rank: Moderator
10/19/2016 | 12:57:46 PM
Re: good essay
Thanks, macker490... perhaps like you, I hadn't really thought through the ramifications of lower wage earners hit by ID theft, and the time and expense required to clean up the mess.

And while cyber insurance is a growing field especially for large businesses needing coverage, it's highly unlikely that those with low and moderate incomes will shell out to cover the individual premium.
T Sweeney
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T Sweeney,
User Rank: Moderator
10/19/2016 | 12:56:04 PM
Re: good essay
Thanks, macker490... perhaps like you, I hadn't really thought through the ramifications of lower wage earners hit by ID theft, and the time and expense required to clean up the mess.

And while cyber insurance is a growing field especially for large businesses needing coverage, it's highly unlikely that those with low and moderate incomes will shell out to cover the individual premium.
T Sweeney
50%
50%
T Sweeney,
User Rank: Moderator
10/19/2016 | 12:55:45 PM
Re: good essay
Thanks, macker490... perhaps like you, I hadn't really thought through the ramifications of lower wage earners hit by ID theft, and the time and expense required to clean up the mess.

And while cyber insurance is a growing field especially for large businesses needing coverage, it's highly unlikely that those with low and moderate incomes will shell out to cover the individual premium.
macker490
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50%
macker490,
User Rank: Ninja
10/19/2016 | 7:10:32 AM
good essay
when it comes to ID theft the megacorps quip "Meh" -- part of the Cost of Business

but when an individual gets hit it ain't funny

Teresa -- a co-worker -- got hit by ID grifters and they cleaned out her account -- right after payday.   we had to pass the has so she'd have gas for work and groceries for her kids for the week

the credit card companies all glibly claim -- we make good on any un-authorized charges.   Good luck with that-- it'll take months on the "phone tree" to get thru

Cut the Plastic   -- it's not secured.  

once you cut the plastic -- and go back to cash -- all of a sudden: you'll have money again.

 
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