Is Identity Theft Really Real?

March 21, 2009

Identity theft has been on the rise throughout this decade and 2008 was no exception according to the latest report by the FTC. I hope the news about how damaging this crime truly is will eventually become common knowledge and people will start to take more precautions.

Identity thieves consist of drug addicts, scam artists and organized crime gangs who do the dirty work of stealing data and financial records. They can be quite clever and creative with their methods. Then they market all their stolen data (which can amount to millions of identities) and sell them in the black market alleys and chat rooms of the internet. They know that the odds of them being caught and sucessfully prosecuted are slim. Bingo – they have hit the jackpot with a very profitible and safe crime.

How is it that our stolen information can so easily be used against us?

It seems to be common knowledge that credit bureaus, banks, credit card companies and data brokers have foolproof ways to be sure to positively identity anyone applying for credit. But you know what? It used to be ‘common knowledge’ that the earth was flat, too.

Any company or instutition that profits from issuing credit works real hard to sell us on the idea of a cashless society. Just wave a piece of plastic and you’ll instantly get whatever you want, no matter that you don’t actually have the cash right at this moment. So they want you to borrow, spend and pay them interest. They become enablers for identity thieves. The speed required to process all the transactions is mind-boggling and a 24/7 schedule. The sheer volume of transactions requires automated systems to be calibrated to err on the side of approval. This allows fraudulent transactions to go through just as fast as the legimate ones.

But remember, we’re the ones who insist on this instant payment. How annoyed would you be if you had to wait several minutes for approval?

These companies make a LOT of money from this marketing plan, so they’re willing to accept the risk of losing money on bad accounts – it’s built into their plan. The actual consumers (us) who become victims of identity theft are the ones who bear the brunt of this crime. It’s our credit history and scores that are damaged. And that damage reflects on our good name which now infers that we’re financial deadbeats. The burden of proving our innocence is on us.

How much personal information do you have on your computer? Do you bank online?

If this wasn’t enough, there are all those viruses and worms that exploit even the tiniest flaws on our computer’s operating system. These ‘worms’ aren’t created by Mother Nature. They’re created by real people with the intent to steal and do harm.

The convenience of instant credit and a cashless society have erupted into a perfect storm for identity theft. As a result, we’ve got to learn how to protect ourselves from this crime. But even before that, we need to acknowledge that it exists and is a huge threat. 

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