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Financial Literacy - Protecting your identity Click Here
The price we pay
Sleazy con artists cause a great deal of inconvenience -- not to mention $45 billion in costs.
Protecting your identity

The costs of ID theft

Plus, vishing is on the rise while phishing attempts have stabilized after rising over the past few years.

"People become victimized on the phone, which has that social engineering element. They hear the silky smooth voice or maybe they just get some basic information from the caller and they talk them into releasing more a little bit at a time," he says.

How much it costs ... consumers
By definition identity theft encompasses a broad range of crimes and the consequences are equally far-reaching.

At a personal level consumers stand to lose the most from identity theft. In a real way it is a crime against them and victims feel it acutely.

"We know from qualitative research, victims take it as a personal violation and have amazing recall of the crime. They are very traumatized," says Van Dyke.

We had a case where a victim of identity theft could not get a police report written.

Time may heal their wounds but it's not easy. Javelin found that it can take 26 hours on average for the injured party to clear up the issues surrounding the fraud. Some of the more complicated cases can take 200 hours or more, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego.

"There are the inconveniences that accrue as a result of having to make numerous phone calls, send out letters, track down information and so forth," says Robert Siciliano, security expert and author of "The Safety Minute."

There's also the lost work time spent trying to contact businesses that only operate from 9 to 5, he adds.

Most often consumers work on the problem on their own. In cases of account takeover, working with a bank or credit card company can quickly remedy the problem.

But dealing with other issues can prove difficult -- for instance, getting law enforcement involved. Victims are encouraged or mandated to get a police report to prove their seriousness, but often just accomplishing this first step can be daunting.

"Just recently we had a case where a victim of identity theft could not get a police report written," says Kroll's Lapidus. But because the victim was in one of Kroll's programs, "we were able to get the police chief to write a police report," he adds.

According to Javelin, of the 8.1 million consumer victims, most lose nothing. The median in their study loses $0, which means more than half don't lose money.

On average though, $691 is lost, up from $541 last year. "That includes unreimbursed losses, legal fees in the rare cases where there are some and, in some cases, lost wages," says Van Dyke.

In February a report from the FTC estimated that the total cost to consumers in 2007 was $1.2 billion.

-- Posted: April 21, 2008
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