Each year, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) tracks the consumer calls that come into its 24-hour toll-free call center to build a clear picture of the threats to the public’s identity safety. The annual report, called the Aftermath report, follows up with identity theft victims who are willing to talk about how identity theft has impacted their lives and what the long-term effects may be.
Last year’s report, which was compiled based on the information for all of 2013, was a stark reminder that no age, gender, geographic location, occupation or income level is completely safe from identity theft. The calls for assistance spanned all demographics and indicated that identity theft is a crime of opportunity that can strike anyone. And even with the sharp increases in recent years of other types of identity theft, such as government or medical, financial identity theft continues to be the most problematic crime associated with the loss of personally identifiable information.
There was a very telling finding in the last Aftermath report, and it shows how the Internet has become such a vital part of our lives as to warrant better security. Following the loss of their identities in 2013, 94.2 percent of the victims stated that they are still “highly engaged” online and through their mobile devices, meaning that the crimes did not have a tremendous impact on how much activity they conduct on the Internet.
While most victims report having taken more proactive steps to keep their personal data secure, like routinely requesting copies of their credit reports, it’s interesting that our cyberlives are such an important part of our routines that even after falling victim to identity theft, respondents did not report significant drops in online activity. We can easily dismiss this as just a force of habit or craving the convenience that the Internet provides, but there’s also the nature of awareness to consider. Once a victim becomes aware of the danger, he/she feels better capable of preventing further problems.
That’s why cybersecurity awareness is crucial for all digital citizens, and the ITRC has chosen to release the findings of our Aftermath survey during National Cyber Security Awareness Month. The results and corresponding whitepaper were made public Oct. 15. It is the ITRC’s hope that our findings will help to add to the educational efforts of this important month-long event. That way, rather than wait for a cybercrime to occur before taking extra security measures, people may learn to protect themselves online without having a thief to show them how vulnerable they are.
About the Author
Eva Velasquez is the president/CEO at the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit organization which serves victims of identity theft. Velasquez previously served as the vice president of operations for the San Diego Better Business Bureau and spent 21 years at the San Diego District Attorney’s Office. Eva has a passion for consumer protection and privacy issues and is constantly striving to educate the public about these important topics.