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Identity theft costs Americans nearly $25 billion annually

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The federal government now reports that 16.6 million people over the age of 16 (approximately 1 out of every 14) have either been the target or victim of identity theft here. Those most vulnerable, however, tend to be between the 20-29, simply because they are less likely to regularly track bank account and credit card activity, as well as sharing personal information on social media more freely. Other major targets are households with incomes of over $75,000 as well as the elderly and even dead people whose Social Security number fall into the wrong hands.

In addition, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, (a watchdog group for the government) noted that tax time thefts* were also rising swiftly. In fact, the IRS stated that there were “more than 1.8 million tax-related ID thefts” last year alone, giving many pause to wonder about the actually safety in e-filing practices.

Identity thieves have also become more sophisticated, graduating from stealing wallets and rummaging through personal trash to employing individualized phising and vishing scans, as well as implanting elaborate “botnets” into computers by hackers who are able to access both government and corporate databases that have included the New York Times to Twitter, Yahoo and more.

While the average loss is estimated to be around $1,769-$3,500, no price can be put on the emotional distress experienced by victims, whose information is not only used to obtain credit and debit cards as well as checking and saving accounts, but is has expanded to include theft of cell and landline phone service; cable and satellite television service; utility service; Internet transactions; medical insurance; home mortgages and rental housing; automobile, boat and other forms of financing and loans; and, government benefits. The information gleaned has also been used to hide criminal records as well as obtain employment.

The methods of achieving personal information has also become more sophisticated, going from stealing wallets and rummaging through personal trash to individualized phising and vishing scans, as well as implanting elaborate botnets into computers by hackers who are able to access both government and corporate databases from the New York Times to Twitter, Yahoo and more.

* Those who suspect that their tax information may be compromised can contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490 Monday-Friday 8am-8pm.

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