Identity Theft By The Numbers

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This week, the Quizzologists ran the numbers and further scrutinized an aspect of the modern personal finance universe that has increased in damage and pervasiveness in recent years: identity theft. It’s a crime that can ruin your credit score and your life.

In the past week, we’ve recommended some steps if you’ve been victimized. But to be honest, rather than cope with its awful effects, we strongly urge you take all necessary precautions to avoid identity theft in the first place. Imagine picking out your dream home with the new missus or mister, reaching a good price, and when it’s time to take life’s next big plunge: you’re denied a loan due to unforeseen problems with your credit report that aren’t even your fault.

[Free Resource: Check your free credit report and score]

Not to be too grim, but recovering from the havoc of identity theft, victims can expect to lose, on average, six months of their life and 200 raw hours worth of work. (Better living through the Information Age!) And while I’m throwing creepy stats at you, here’s another: upwards of 40 percent of identity thefts can be attributed to someone the victim knows. I guess, when it comes to identity theft, we hurt the credit report of the ones we love.

So, yeah, pretty scary numbers. And here are some other numbers you should know regarding (to borrow a dated phrase and an even more dated phrase), the information superhighway highwaymen. So, brace yourself—if that really is you!

1 in 1.43 (70% of) U.S. ADULTS use the internet regularly. That’s roughly 175 million people out there, in this nation alone, surfing.

1 in 1.45 (69% of) U.S. ADULTS make purchases online. That’s 172.5 million of the aforementioned 175 million folks online who decide, “hey, that looks pur-tee!” and plunk down their credit card information.

1 in 18.22 (5.5% of) HOUSEHOLDS experience an identity theft. Of 114 million estimated households in 2010, 6.27 million will go through this new age nightmare.

1 in 5.56 (18% of) I.D THEFT VICTIMS suffer ongoing problems related to that theft. Often this is the result in cases where there’s multiple incidents of fraud, Social Security fraud, or fraud not caught in time—unwary victims, not monitoring their credit reports and scores for suspicious activity and who don’t realize their problem until it’s too late.

[Free Resource: Check your free credit report and score]

1 in 21.28 (4.7% of) I.D. THEFT VICTIMS lose $5000 or more due to the theft.

270,000 I.D. THEFTS REPORTED to the Federal Trade Commission last year alone.

Egads. That makes one out of one people (100 percent) writing this article anxious to not be identity-thieved from, (or however you’d say it). Of course, the two most important things to remember are: make sure to guard sensitive information jealously and diligently monitor your credit reports and scores.

Since problems relating to identity theft get chronically worse the longer the theft goes undiscovered and unchecked, realize that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So, now that you know the numbers, make sure you don’t become a statistic!