More Bad News About Identity Theft
The crime of identity theft is on the rise, in a big way. A recently released Javelin report found that identity theft rose 13% from 2010 to 2011 with approximately 11.6 million victims of identity theft in the U.S. This month’s Consumer Reports paints an even more troubling picture. In a national survey of 2,002 households, the Consumer Reports National Resource Center projected that approximately 15.9 million households experienced identity theft in the past 12 months, up almost 50% from the previous year’s study.
Another troubling finding was that almost half of the victims — 7.8 million — were notified that their personally identifiable information (PII) was hacked or lost by a public or private organization. It’s long been explained that the biggest risk for identity theft stemmed from people who know us or who have access to our wallets or trash. This allowed consumers to ignore reports of data breaches and hacks. That databases of our PII were prone to leaking met with a big so what? So what if Zappos got hacked, exposing over 24 million users’ credit card and other personal information?
Now, it is increasingly clear that insecure databases of our personal information pose serious risks of identity theft to consumers. What is in store for identity theft victims? Victims spend considerable time and money to restore their credit histories. The stain of a thief’s reckless spending can make their way into data brokers’ files, with recurring impact on the ability to get hired, rent apartments, and the like. The FTC’s recent privacy report gives some hope that we may in the future have more transparency and corrective measures with regard to data brokers. But we are not there yet, and that’s a big problem for identity theft victims.