Here are some of the facts the report discovered:
- Behavioral changes: According to the study, about 50 percent of respondents began checking their credit reports more regularly after being victimized by identity thieves. Every person is entitled to one free, annual credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. It’s important to check your credit report periodically so that you are aware of your financial history.
- Data breaches are becoming more frequent: The ITRC discovered more data breaches by mid-October than it had in all of 2013. Home Depot, P.F. Chang’s and JP Morgan are just some of the businesses that have been affected, and retailers are currently struggling to establish security measures that are sophisticated enough to thwart today’s cyber-criminals.
- Emphasis on detection: The best thing you can do for your financial security and peace of mind is to stay aware. “There are two kinds of consumers —” says Eva Velasquez, ITRC president and CEO, “there are those who know they’ve been breached, and those who don’t.” If you’re worried about becoming the latter, sign up for a credit monitoring service that can alert you to certain kinds of activity that may indicate theft and put yourself in the best possible position to resolve it.
- Effects are long-lasting: Identity theft is a crime that affects many areas of victims’ lives and isn’t easily fixed. According to the ITRC study, more than half of individuals surveyed were still dealing with the aftermath of identity theft at the time of the survey, and 35 percent were still struggling to obtain new lines of credit.
- New accounts are vulnerable: New mobile phone and utility accounts are particularly attractive to identity thieves. The ITRC reported that one in four people with new accounts have their identities stolen, so it’s important to be extra vigilant if you’ve recently opened a cell phone or utility account.
- Public concern is high: According to a new Gallup poll reported by Time Magazine, nearly 70 percent of Americans are concerned that their credit card information will be stolen from a retailer’s point of sale or computer systems, and 62 percent fear that hackers will target their personal mobile devices.
- Static behavior: The ITRC reported that most victims of identity theft did not change their bank, and 94.2 percent remained active online even after being affected by cyber-crimes. The fact is, no bank is free from risk, and consumers don’t feel that changing institutions would protect them. Additionally, most individuals in today’s interconnected world don’t have the ability to disengage entirely from the internet, even though they understand the inherent risks of being online.
This study confirms that victims find identity theft to be a costly crime, and one that takes a significant amount of time to recover from. The best thing consumers can do is to detect identity theft as soon as possible, and that’s where credit and identity protection services can be helpful.