The Growing Problem of Identity Theft

Identity theft is an epidemic impacting people across America. During 2016, an estimated 15.4 million consumers experienced some kind of identity theft. This is an increase from 13.1 million in 2015. Another staggering statistic is that 1 in every 16 adults in the United States is a victim of identity theft.

This increase in identity theft notwithstanding the fact that 2016 was the first year that retailers were forced to accept EMV chip cards. The belief was that by switching to these EMV chip cards it would almost entirely eliminate card cloning, which is a major type of identity theft.  Instead of lessening the amount of credit card fraud this switch has made criminals move away from card cloning and into different types of fraud. More criminals are starting to make online purchases where swiping or inserting a physical card is no longer necessary.

Over the past few years, we have seen numerous data breaches. Data breaches have been hitting financial, health, commercial, government, and education institutions. These breaches have ranged from password management services like LastPass, the OneLogin security breach, and Target security breach.  All of these different breaches compromise our data and our identity. The above companies are just a few that have been hit by a security breach.

After these data breaches occur, many companies like Target will offer a credit monitoring service for a period of one or two years. Although, the credit monitoring service often makes the consumers much less concerned about the safety of their identity, it may not actually do much to protect consumers. These credit monitoring services only alert users of identity theft and fraud after it has already occurred. The credit monitoring service does nothing to actually prevent users from having their identities stolen.

The companies who lose the data are not actually held liable for the loss. They also do not provide any type of reimbursement to people whose identity may have been stolen as a result of the data breach. With the large amount of data breaches that are occurring, consumers have become concerned about companies’ security measures.

If your identity has been compromised because of a data breach the best way to protect yourself is to use a security freeze. When you have a security freeze, it prevents criminals from opening credit cards and accounts. Every state in the Unites States allows users to freeze access to their credit. The only downside is that people need to pay to both freeze and unfreeze their data, with the only exception being that often the first freeze can be at no cost. Most states will allow people who have suffered from identity theft and have a police report to freeze their credit for free. Some of these states also have programs to allow those who are over a certain age to freeze their credit for free.

Any consumer who fears that their identity is at risk should consider a credit freeze. A credit freeze is a drastic decision, but it can prevent a criminal using your identity for a credit application.

At our law firm, we assist clients with legal issues related to online privacy, cybersecurity, and identity theft. Please contact us to set up an initial consultation.