As much as we now know about identity theft and what we should be doing to prevent it from happening (such as shred sensitive documents, not open e-mail attachments from address you don’t know, etc.), it is still a huge problem that continues to get worse. Nationwide, reported cases of identity theft are rising by 3% to 5% every year.
“It’s the fastest-growing crime in the country in terms of volume,” said Webb, an assistant U.S. attorney in Nashville. “It’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.”
The hardest part of dealing with identity theft and prosecuting it, is that it often goes undetected for months or years at a time, and the hackers behind the identity are extremely difficult to track down. Worse, often after finally discovering who is responsible, it’s still difficult for victims to go after the hackers’ money in civil court due to outdated laws that don’t apply as much to the latest forms of identity theft.
“The monetary loss is usually the least of the victim’s problem,” Webb said. “Really, the difficult part of it is that, most of the time, you don’t know where that breach is.”
Aside from losing the money and getting you credit destroyed, the hardest part is perhaps getting everything settled and back to normal. Sgt. David Howard of the Metro Police Department’s fraud division says that cleaning up identity theft can take a victim up to 700 hours worth of phone calls, affidavits and paperwork. And if money has been indeed stolen from a victim, there is usually no way to get it back.
The best thing an individual can do is try to prevent identity theft from happening in the first place. Make sure that you do everything you can to keep your identity safe, such as don’t open e-mail attachments or links from addresses that you don’t know or trust. Also keep checking on your credit history, or hire a company to monitor your credit for you to make sure nothing unusual is happening.
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