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The exact numbers for identity theft cases are still being debated, but some numbers are as high as 44 million people as of 2010, or an average of 1 in 5 people in America and other industrialized nations. Others say these numbers are much higher than actual victims. Even with the discrepancies in estimates, identity theft cases are still the fastest growing crime in many countries, including the United States.
Nearly 250,000 complaints are filed in any given year for identity theft cases, and many more go unnoticed for extended periods of time. Additionally, there are companies and other organizations which put customer information at risk for identity theft. Most of these cases are due to computer malfunction, hackers, and occasionally disgruntled employees. New computer security software has been developed to help combat these issues.
Although security measures are being taken, and software is better than ever, identity theft cases continue to rise. This may be, in part, due to consumers' lax habits in protecting their own information. When technology fails, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan to protect Social Security numbers, bank account information, and other personal information which may give a hacker an advantage. Protective measures should include shredding papers before throwing them away, storing important files in safe locations, and making sure websites on which information are given are fully protected.
The Internet is by far the most dangerous place for personal information, but there are steps which can be taken to prevent more identity theft cases from cropping up. Although security software has become better than ever, hackers have also become more efficient at what they do. To combat this, consumers are urged to check the site address before giving information to ensure they are on the correct page.
Identity theft cases come in many forms, shapes, and sizes. Some thieves use consumer credit information to try and get loans on goods like homes and cars, while others make unauthorized purchases using the person’s own credit cards and bank accounts. Most banks now have protection against fraudulent charges if the cards in question are reported stolen quickly enough, but consumers are still liable to pay millions of dollars in charges each year due to identity theft. Sometimes it takes years — or even decades — to repair all the damage done to credit scores.
Another type of identity theft cases which are making headlines are those involving the information of the deceased. If the death certificate is not filed with the correct agencies and someone takes the Social Security or other identifying number of the deceased person, credit companies have no way of knowing the number being used belongs to someone who is no longer living. This sometimes allows thieves to get away with using the person’s credit for longer periods of time, since there is often no one to report the information missing.