Rising Identity Theft Figures Prove the Need for Better Consumer Awareness

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Madeleine Jones
July 5, 2017

identity theft hacker screen_fcra attorneyIdentity theft rose by 16 percent in 2016, indicating the need for increased consumer awareness. Criminals are becoming more adept at committing fraud. They quickly find workarounds for the security solutions organizations put in place, so consumers need to be aware of the risks to protect themselves.

Criminals stole approximately $16 billion from 15.4 million Americans in 2016, representing an increase of $1 billion and 2 million victims over the previous year.

Online fraud increased the most, registering a 40-percent rise, because all the offenders need are credit or debit card numbers to make purchases. The risk of being caught is also much lower than in those transactions where the card has to be used physically.

A 31-percent increase was registered in account takeovers, where fraudsters steal people’s login data and use it to access their accounts, while fraudulent account openings grew by 20 percent.

Nevada is considered one of the most vulnerable states to identity theft and fraud. Over 25,000 complaints of fraud were registered in 2016, of which more than 3,900 were for identity theft.

The Consequences of Identity Theft Can Be Severe

The rising threat indicates that criminals are becoming more adept at circumventing the security solutions companies use, leaving consumers more vulnerable than ever. If consumers were more aware of the risks involved, they might take a more proactive approach to protecting their personal information.

Fraud protections are in place and the dollar cost per victim has declined, thanks mainly to tech-savvy consumers that often identify the problem immediately. However, people who don’t shop or bank online often can take more than 40 days to discover they’ve been defrauded.

The consequences of identity theft can be severe, including being denied credit, paying penalties due to nonpayment, being refused employment, being denied a promotion, and even being arrested.

Consumers can resolve any issue with their credit score caused by inaccurate information thanks to the FCRA. An attorney can prove fraud was involved and get the erroneous entries removed. However, other actions might also have to be taken, including filing legal complaints, reporting the theft of personal information, changing passwords, closing accounts, and more.

While a more aware public won’t stop fraud in its tracks, it would help people understand the risks of being negligent. If consumers were more careful with their personal information and electronic devices, criminals would find it more difficult to obtain the data they need to commit fraud.