In 2003, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released the results of the first nation-wide survey of identity theft in the United States. The survey showed that just under 10 million Americans had been the victim of identity theft in the previous year. About half of all identity theft victims do not know how their identifying information has been stolen.
Some instances result from methods as purse snatching or “dumpster diving.” Technology drives other techniques. For example, some independent organizations report that malicious e-mails known as “phishing” and software known as “spyware” may account for incidents of internet-based identity theft. In phishing scams, e-mail arrives that appears to be from a well-known source — an internet service provider, a bank, or a mortgage company, for example. The e-mail ordinarily warns that something is wrong with their account, and to remedy the problem, the consumer must provide personal identifying information. The scammer uses the information to open new accounts, or invade the consumer’s existing accounts.
Consumer Fraud Online has identified some tips to protect yourself from identity theft that you can use to minimize the possibility of problems. For more information, visit the FTC’s identity theft website.
If you are a victim of identity theft, contact the FTC through their toll free hotline, 1-877-ID-THEFT, or use their online complaint form.