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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection The Resource Center | article

1 In 6 Americans Don’t Discover They Are Victims Of Identity Theft Until Years After The Crime

Early detection is the best defense against identity theft.

Many Americans don’t realize they have been the victims of identity for years.

The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) recently released a report stating that one in six Americans don’t realize they have become victims of identity theft until years after the crime has been committed. Before they’re detected, criminals can wreak havoc on victims’ financial, professional and personal lives.

What The Reports Tells Us

  • The report is based on information collected from victims of identity theft who reached out to the ITRC in 2013, and consisted of 201 victims in 39 states.
  • Of those victims surveyed, 48 percent detected a problem within three months of the crime’s beginning.
  • Almost 20 percent of victims didn’t notice the identity theft for 13 to 24 months.
  • About 16.2 percent of respondents didn’t detect any criminal activity for three years.
  • These victims reported that the thieves opened new lines of credit, received medical treatment, filed fraudulent tax returns, committed crimes and drained bank accounts, all while using the victims’ names.
  • Over half of those surveyed had not yet resolved the issues caused by the identity theft.
  • According to a recent Gallup poll, nearly 70 percent of Americans are actively concerned about becoming a victim of identity theft, and 62 percent fear having their mobile devices hacked. Those were the only two crimes that worried the majority of Americans.

How You Should React

  • Change your passwords: It’s a good idea to change your passwords every three months in order to reduce overall risk. Make sure you follow the safest practices when creating a new password. For instance, avoid using personal information or easily guessed phrases, and intersperse numbers and symbols throughout. You might even think about turning to a password keeper app to help you maximize your password safely and efficiency.
  • Check your accounts: Set aside a time every day to take a look at your bank accounts to make sure that nothing amiss has happened. This is not only a great way to stay financially aware, it will also help you detect credit card theft all the sooner. Call your bank immediately with any concerns you may have after checking your statements.
  • Identity protection services: If you’re concerned about unknowingly becoming a victim of identity theft, you may want to consider registering for identity protection services, which can alert you to certain kinds of activity that may indicate fraud.
  • Order your credit report: You can order your free annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. Do this to make sure there aren’t mistakes on your file. Credit reports are important records of your financial history, so it’s important that these records be accurate reflections of your past behavior.
  • Take the initiative: One of the best things you can do as a consumer is to be active in protecting your identity. Don’t leave your personal and financial security solely up to your bank. Instead, follow tips like these and become a proactive citizen.

The consequences of identity theft are more easily handled the sooner a victim discovers the crime, so aiming for early detection is always the best strategy.