Newlyweds just starting out generally have positive outlooks, believing that the best days are ahead of them. But if their credit card or bank account information were filched somehow, they may face tough times ahead instead.
More than 77 percent of those in the 25- to 34-year-old age group are concerned about having their identities stolen, and the area of most concern is the safety of their personal information on the Internet. Nearly 56 percent in this age group expressed concern about online security, according to Bankrate's recent poll.
Often young families are living paycheck to paycheck and don't have much money saved. If they think they can clear their good names with a simple call to their creditors and bank, they're often mistaken.
If an ID thief gets a person's checks or debit card and drains his bank account, he generally has 48 hours to report the fraud. After that brief window, the person's on the hook for $500. If he doesn't report fraud within 60 days, his liability is unlimited.
Most banks will credit your money back within a few business days after confirming the fraud through an investigation. Bank of America and Wachovia representatives say their customers have up to 60 days to report fraud, but it's always wise to check a bank's specific policy.
Although many banks won't hold customers liable for monetary damages, some victims still wind up paying several hundred dollars in legal fees and expenses to clear their names.
The Javelin report indicates a strong correlation between detection time and consumer costs in all cases of fraud. Generally, the longer the fraud goes undetected, the more the victim pays out of pocket.
A 2006 FTC report concluded that more than 50 percent of identity theft victims incurred no out-of-pocket expenses, but the top 10 percent incurred expenses of at least $3,000 and the top 5 percent reported expenses of $5,000 or more.
If an identity thief has enough time to damage your credit report, your insurance rates could go up and your credit limits could go down -- two things that could put a dent in a family's household budget.
I was 25 and starting to raise
a family, I didn't have a lot
of spare time and I didn't have
a lot of spare cash," Foley
says. "To have someone come
in and put me behind the eight
ball with identity theft would
have been devastating."
Identity theft may force a family to make lifestyle changes, such as cutting down on dining out and buying household goods, while they are clearing their name.
get a hold of your driver's license
and get one or more unpaid tickets
in your name, your license could
be suspended, unbeknownst to you.
Things could get a lot worse if an identity thief commits a crime and gives the police your identification.
"If there are failures to appear (in court) or warrants for a victim's arrest, they can be detained until proof of the identity theft case is provided to authorities," says Sandi Copes, spokeswoman for the Florida Attorney General's Office.
"These are all things that young couples starting out, who don't have a lot of money coming in, really can't afford," says Foley.