Florida’s identity theft problem and how it affects you
Article from TFPCA.com
Identity theft is becoming a paramount concern in the state of Florida and throughout the United States. It can affect all aspects of life, from buying a home and career advancement, all the way to dating and social interactions. Florida was hit hard by the recession. That, compounded with the BP oil spill and reduced tourism, has affected the livelihood of many Floridians. When identity theft is added to the equation, it has made the already challenging situation more hazardous.
Florida, because of its large elderly population, has become a haven for identity thieves. These thieves tend to prey upon the elderly due to some senior citizens’ lack of technological knowledge. At the same time, the younger work force in Florida has fallen victim to identity theft because of the required presence on the internet and the prevalence of internet related business transactions.
In Florida, there have been numerous cases of credit card skimming. Skimming is a process where thieves put false card readers inside ATMs to obtain information from debit cards. This information is then transferred onto another card such as a gift card. These cards can then be used as a debit card, withdrawing money out of an individual’s account as if the account holder was actually making the transaction. There are many other ways that identity theft is happing in Florida, such as phishing, obtaining bank statements, and gaining access to personal information. This identity theft can negatively affect the credit score of the victim without the victim’s knowledge.
Identity theft is affecting the careers of many Floridians. It can take several years to repair the damage from a single case of identity fraud, and some employers may not be sympathetic to the reasons behind a low credit score. 13% of companies surveyed by the Society of Human Resource Management in July of 2012 performed credit checks on all job applicants.
There have been efforts to limit these credit checks, however. Eight states, including California, Washington, Hawaii and Vermont, have passed laws preventing employers from using credit checks to determine eligibility for job positions. The Federal government will be looking into this issue in 2013 in order to help combat unemployment rates. There is currently no legislation in Florida protecting job applicants from credit checks run by potential employers.
Many career-minded Floridians have taken it upon themselves to monitor their credit reports and safeguard their personal information. The advent of companies such as LifeLock has allowed Floridians to not only monitor their credit scores, but to obtain information about potential threats to their financial stability. LifeLock has improved the early detection of credit related issues. It not only monitors credit scores; the company will also alert its clients of any credit abnormalities or possible fraudulent attacks.
The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) gathers information from the top law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, Attorney Generals Offices, and state and local law enforcement agencies. According to the CSN, identity theft was the top category of complaints numbered at 1.8million cases in 2011. This amassed to 15% of the overall complaints received by the CSN during that calendar year.
Not only are government documents and benefits being counterfeited, the general population in the United States is being victimized as well. Credit card fraud is the second most common category of identity theft in the United States, tallying up to 14% of cases reported. Phone or utilities fraud comes in at a close third in reports at 13%. Next in line come bank fraud (9%), employment fraud (8%), and loan fraud (3%).
All cases of identity theft are not reported to law enforcement, however. These statistics are based on the forty-five percent of identity theft reporters who actually submitted the information about whether they contacted law enforcement or not. Of this forty-five percent, 70% alerted a police department, and of this 70%, only 57% indicated that a report was actually taken. The real amount of identity theft happening in the United States is staggering, and a substantial amount of this criminal activity is happening without notice to the proper authorities.
Identity theft is defined by the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) by three different occurrences. These are the unauthorized use or attempted use of existing credit cards, the unauthorized use or attempted use of other existing accounts such as checking accounts, and the misuse of personal information to obtain new accounts or loans, or to commit other crimes. These are the types of behaviors that identity thieves demonstrate on a daily basis in order to create the volume of identity theft that is happening in Florida and throughout the country.
In 2010 alone, 7% of households in the United States had experienced one or more forms of identity theft. This percentage shakes out to a whopping 8.6 million households. Most of this theft was done through the unauthorized use of an existing credit card account. To take a broader look at the situation however, from 2005 to 2010, the percentage of all households that fell victim to identity theft that suffered no direct financial loss fortunately increased from 18.5% to 23.7%.
Credit scores are becoming more and more relevant in the world today. For instance, social interactions are somewhat guided by credit scores. For example, if you’re not able to finance a house in the neighborhood you might desire because of a poor credit score, your social circles could essentially become limited to other individuals with similar credit related situations. This same principal could affect children’s school zones, and their potential peer groups.
On the subject of family, your credit score and financial situation could affect your marital bliss. When two people marry with less than ideal credit scores, the opportunities to achieve the ‘American dream’ could diminish. Accordingly, when one partner with an undesirable credit score marries a partner with a better credit score, the union brings down the average when credit is combined to make important purchases.
In a 2012 interview with the New York Times, John Hendrix, a 33-year-old chemist in San Francisco said that due to a disputed bill with his cable company, his credit score was adversely affected. This mark on his credit report made him worried that there could be the potential for tension between he and his girlfriend. In this case, they had recently applied for an auto lease, and Mr. Hendrix had to leave his name off the title in order to secure a more favorable interest rate. This small hiccup in his credit report had unpleasantly affected his financial well being, therefore causing him stress in his romantic relationship.
There are many reasons to watch your credit score. Everything from debt-to-income ratio, a billing error, or identity theft can have a major impact. One small misstep on the road to financial stability could affect many aspects in life. By closely monitoring your credit score and safeguarding your personal information, it is possible to prevent the potential misuse of your data.
A company such as LifeLock has shown its clients a substantial decline in identity theft and credit fraud. Professionals in the state of Florida and throughout the United States have a responsibility to themselves and their loved ones to protect their credit scores. This is in order to not jeopardize possible career advancement and peace of mind. If one wants to enjoy financial security from the beginning through retirement, it is important to be aware of all of the vulnerabilities identity theft can present along the way.