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Ho, ho, no-way: Identity theft- the gift that keeps on giving

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A national household survey report issued on Dec. 12 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 1 out of every 14 Americans 16 and older had been a target or victim of identity theft. The survey went on to state that identity theft resulted in $24.7 billion in financial losses and affected more than 16.6 million people.

For many of the victims the financial loss was not as great as the amount of time spent resolving the problems related to the identity theft. Of those who spent six months or more trying to clear their good name, 47 percent experienced severe emotional distress, compared with 4 percent who spent a day or less resolving problems.

In general, victims whose personal information, such as a Social Security number, was misused were more likely to experience financial, legal or other difficulties, according to the bureau.

"What we're seeing here is the exponential growth of information technology, and with that comes the ability to be hacked," said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation, a research organization.

Bueermann said that "at one point in the past, people lived in places where they didn't lock their doors."

"Over time, they started to lock them," he said. "We'll come to the same place in our digital life, hopefully sooner."

In an exclusive interview with Victor Searcy, Director of Fraud Operations from IDT911, he warned that the holidays are a key time for opportunists, looking to either steal your information or put malware into your computer systems, including mobile devices.

He talked about not carrying your Social Security card in your wallet, monitoring your credit card accounts daily as well as your bank account information.

Searcy also warned about three scams that most people may not consider, all related to the holidays due to the number of emails and social networking done in December.

The first scam regards eCards. “In this scam, the criminals send a Christmas eCard claiming to be from someone you know. The criminals are you hoping that you will click a link or download an attachment and, instead of receiving Seasons Greetings, you get a nice new piece of malware on your system.”

The problem is that you probably will receive legitimate holiday eCards as well. Jay Foley of ID Theft Info Source suggests contacting the sender before clicking on the link to make sure that person truly sent the email.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss the other two scams of the holiday season.

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