Imagine that you’ve just stopped by the bank to take out $100 in cash. On your next errand, you go to the supermarket but forget to lock your car. While you’re inside, a thief opens your unlocked door and lifts the envelope from the center console.
In this scenario, it’s easy to tabulate the cost of the theft: $100. Out of negligence, you forgot to lock your door, so no break-in occurred. You weren’t physically or emotionally traumatized and no repairs to your vehicle are necessary. After learning your lesson, it’s likely you’ll never allow this type of oversight to happen again. You may feel angry and frustrated that the perpetrator got away with such an easy crime. But it could be much worse.
It’s rare that thefts of any kind happen in this type of hypothetical vacuum. Often, the cost of theft extends far past the material value of what was stolen.
In cases of identity theft, your credit and reputation are the collateral damage. This makes it impossible to calculate how much identity theft costs its victims. On the face of it, you may lose four, five or six figures in savings. However, you may also find yourself responsible for new debts you didn’t create and a sinking credit score due to bad decisions you didn’t make. Identity thieves don’t just steal objects like cash: they inhabit their targets’ identities online and in the real world, leaving their victims holding the bill.
“Long term, there should be no damage to your credit from ID theft ,” says Barry Paperno, community manager for Credit.com. “But in the short run, you could lose more than 100 points from your score and not regain all of them until after the fraudulent credit information is removed from your credit report, which could take weeks, and in some complex cases even months.”
So how can potential victims “lock their car doors” against identity thieves? One strategy is to be skeptical of any emails, messages or phone calls that request personal information, like your Social Security Number, up front. These pieces of correspondence are often phishing methods aimed at convincing you to divulge just enough info for a thief to steal your identity. An important thing to remember about your bank account, drivers license numbers and other forms of identification is that once they’re lost, getting them “back” is nearly impossible.
Once an identity theft has taken place, the focus shifts to damage control. Alerting your credit card company to charges you’re not responsible for can help them start to relieve your liability. Because many identity thefts are tied to large, unified networks or criminal “rings,” alerting the authorities about your situation can help professionals gather evidence about the scale and scope of the theft.
One of the best ways to protect from identity theft is through thorough, routine credit monitoring . A credit moniroting service can alert you when certain activity that may be indicative of fraud appears on your credit reports. Contact Identity Guard today to learn more about our services and take one step toward guarding yourself and your family against identity theft.