I got my start as an identity theft speaker. I write and speak on the importance of being vigilant about protecting yourself from identity theft and online fraud from many angles: the stress of trying to reestablish your credibility, rebuilding relationships, regaining control of your personal information, perhaps even fighting to stay out of jail as I had to do. So while I’m an identity theft speaker, my motivation is always completely human. We as humans make flawed decisions about how we fail to prepare for things like identity theft. We as humans are the ones that make the difference in fighting this crime. As it turns out, our wealth is at risk.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), there is one more important reason to be especially careful: financial implications. In the latest National Crime Victimization Survey, identity theft cost Americans $10 billion more than all other property crimes. To be exact, identity theft cost Americans $24.7 billion compared to just $14 billion for household burglary, motor vehicle theft, and property theft combined. The $24 million is made up of direct losses (money thieves got by misusing a victim’s personal or account information) and indirect losses (such as legal fees and bounced checks), with the majority coming from direct losses.
Now, you wouldn’t dream of going off for the night and leaving your front door wide open, or leaving your car keys in plain sight, but how many of us do the equivalent with our identities? Do you surf on free WiFi at your favorite café, while in the airport or at your hotel? Have you locked down your smartphone with a passcode, limited location tracking and turned on the built-in privacy and security settings? Have you ever customized the share settings in your favorite social network? Maybe not.
Here are some key points from the BJS report:
- 85% of theft incidents involved the fraudulent use of existing accounts, rather than the use of somebody’s name to open a new account.
- People whose names were used to open new accounts were more likely to experience financial hardship, emotional distress, and even problems with their relationships, than people whose existing accounts were manipulated.
- Half of identity theft victims lost $100 or more.
- Americans who were in households making $75,000 or more were more likely to experience identity theft than lower-income households.
Identity thieves have also begun targeting smartphone and social media users, knowing that user ignorance and the learning curve associated with using sites make it easy to hit the bull’s-eye.
In addition, the increase in occurrences of data breaches puts us even more at risk. Javelin Strategy & Research found that someone who is a victim of an online data breach becomes 9.5 times more likely to have their identity stolen.
For solutions to these and many other identity theft and data breach problems, check out identity theft speaker John Sileo’s book, Privacy Means Profit: Prevent Identity Theft and Secure Your Bottom Line.
John Sileo is an author and highly engaging speaker on internet privacy, identity theft and technology security. He is CEO of The Sileo Group, which helps organizations to protect the privacy that drives their profitability. His recent engagements include presentations at The Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security and Northrop Grumman as well as media appearances on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.