Identity Theft and Privacy

Geoffrey VanderPal

By Geoffrey Vanderpal, DBA, CFP®, Full-Time Faculty, Kaplan University 
Published August 2016

"An e-mail study in 2015 by Privacy Concierge, LLC indicated nearly 65% of respondents earning greater than $175,000 annually felt personal privacy risk and identity theft were a very serious concern. According to Javelin Strategy & Research an American becomes a victim to identity theft every 2 seconds and 13.1 million victims in 2013, up over 500,000 from 2012. According to in 2012 losses from ID Theft totaled $24.7 Billion. The Bureau of Justice Statistics claims the direct and indirect losses of $1,769 per person from identify theft." (Source: Journal of Financial Planning) 

Identity theft refers to a wide range of crimes including any attempt to misuse another person's existing accounts, identifying information, or personal information to commit fraud or other crimes. This includes using someone else's credit and medical insurance benefits, or using someone else's identity to commit a crime.

Identity Theft and Privacy

Identity theft and personal privacy are intertwined and have several distinctions. Personal privacy extends to people or firms not wanting entities or people to have access to personal data whereas identity theft prevention restricts access to personal data to impersonate or steal financial or health care resources.

There are currently hundreds of databases used by financial institutions, lawyers, private investigators, collection agencies, employers, business competitors, and the general public that provide various types of personal information and detailed reports for purchase. Some of this personal information can be used for identity theft and some can be used to locate assets for investigations and lawsuits. This information can be easily purchased by the general public, and in many cases then can be used to locate people or their families, or to impersonate someone.

Tips to Stop Identity Theft

A security freeze on your credit and financial bureau reports are the best way to mitigate and stop identity theft. This requires a formal request to each credit or financial bureau that falls under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to request a security freeze. This may include the three big bureaus such as Transunion, Equifax, and Experian. There are also about a dozen additional bureaus beyond the big three. Over 90% of banks use Chexsystems to check a customer banking history and this can be frozen as well. Once a security freeze is placed, the report can be opened either temporarily or permanently for inquiries by providing an assigned PIN code.

This link provides the most up-to-date list of credit bureaus from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This list provide detailed contact information where you can order the reports to see what information is retained about your financial, credit, banking, vehicular, medical, and other personal information. 

Geoffry Vanderpal is a full-time faculty member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.

This article serves and general information and should not be relied upon as official legal advice. For legal application to your individual situation you want to be sure to consult a licensed attorney.

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