Several years ago, my husband and I went on our annual family camping trip in Terlingua, Texas, right outside of Big Bend National Park.
As usual, on our way out, we stopped in Alpine to gas up. My dad paid with a credit card, and we got on the road and headed home.
But a few days later, some unusual charges appeared on his account. The credit card company caught it first, and Dad assured them that not only did he not make those purchases, but he wasn’t even in Alpine anymore. He quickly figured out that someone at the gas station had stolen his credit card number and was living it up in Alpine, Texas.
And not too long ago, something similar happened to me. I got a call from my credit card company about some unusual activity on my account. Apparently someone made 9 or 10 charges at Walmart, each about $100, all within a short time period.
It was great that the credit card company caught it quickly, and it’s great that I wasn’t responsible for the charges. But what wasn’t so great was the hassle! My card had to be frozen, and I had to be issued a new card. I also had to figure out if any automatic payments were scheduled so that I could pay them manually, at least until the new card arrived. It’s not fun.
And apparently the time it takes to sort through an identity theft mess is affecting employers, as well, which brings us to our first link…
1. Identity theft is costly for employers
Luckily, I was able to resolve my identity theft fairly quickly. But it can take as much as 33 hours of a victim’s time to resolve the case, and serious breaches can even take 600 hours, as reported by Lehigh Valley Business.
And since many of us hold down a day job, that cuts into work time. One study found that 48 percent of a company’s employees will experience some legal issues throughout the year, which will take at least 51 hours of work time per year to solve. Granted, the site reporting on that study is also trying to convince employers to buy into legal and identity theft plans for employees, so it’s suspect. But even still, if an employee has to spend 30+ hours resolving a case of identity theft, it stands to reason that she’ll have to use up some PTO to do it.
(On another note, an employer-sponsored identity theft plan is a pretty interesting company perk.)
2. Children aren’t immune
You already know you should be checking your credit report at least once a year. But do you check your kids’ credit reports?
It may sound ridiculous. It’s not like 8-year-old Emily has her own American Express card, so she should have no credit, and therefore, no report. But it’s the combination of a blemish-free credit history and the likelihood that no one is monitoring a child’s identity that make them the best kind of target for identity theft.
According to a study conducted by Carnegie Melon’s CyLab, more than 10 percent of children studied had their Social Security number used fraudulently. The youngest victim was 5 months old. The largest fraud ($725,000) was committed against a 16-year-old girl.
“The potential impact on the child’s future is profound; it could destroy or damage a child’s ability to win approval on student loans, acquire a mobile phone, obtain a job or secure a place to live,” according to the report.
Two big red flags? If your kid is getting bills, credit card offers, or collection notices, there’s a problem. Don’t assume it’s just a computer glitch. Also, if your child actually has a credit report, then somewhere there’s a credit line in his or her name. Look into it.
3. The state of identity theft in your state
According to a Federal Trade Commission report, if you’re a resident of one of these states, you may be more likely to become a victim of identity theft.
Florida, 361.3 complaints per 100,000 residents
Georgia, 193.9 complaints per 100,000 residents
California, 122.7 complaints per 100,000 residents
Michigan, 122.2 complaints per 100,000 residents
New York, 110.1 complaints per 100,000 residents
Nevada, 109.9 complaints per 100,000 residents
Texas, 108.6 complaints per 100,000 residents
Arizona, 107.3 complaints per 100,000 residents
Maryland, 105.0 complaints per 100,000 residents
Alabama, 104.9 complaints per 100,000 residents
In addition, you’re most likely to be victimized via email or phone contact, as opposed to mail, other online contact, or other means.
4. Stealing IDs to hang with Mickey
I can’t give you links about identity theft without at least one oddball story, so here you go.
Last week the former manager of an Lincolnshire, Illinois, steakhouse was arrested on charges of ID theft. Specifically, 26-year-old Alexander Pera is accused of stealing the IDs of 50 employees and customers in order to finance 15 trips to Disney World and two Disney cruises, all within a five-month period.
“I like Disney, but 15 times in five months is excessive and expensive,” Lincolnshire investigator Adam Hyde told CNN. ”I guess not if you aren’t paying for it.”
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