According to a recent survey from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), as many as 30% of identity theft victims have required some level of government assistance to stabilize their financial situation and get themselves back on their feet.
The ITRC has reported that while identity theft is less common among low- to moderate-income earners, it is these victims who are hit the hardest because they don’t have the extra time and money required to resolve the issue.
According to the ITRC’s 300-person sample of people who have used their free services over the past year, many victims who sought government assistance like food stamps and electronic benefit transfers (EBT) also asked for financial support from family, friends, and their local communities.
Ultimately, Eva Velasquez, the president and CEO of the ITRC, has concluded that “identity theft is affecting all of us, even if you’re not a victim.”
The ITRC’s annual study showed other key findings. Respondents reported experiencing “lost opportunities” due to criminal identity theft issues. More than half (55%) missed work, 44% missed an employment opportunity, and 31% actually lost their homes because of identity theft.
“The survey responses provide a comprehensive picture of the true impact of this crime on its victims and confirms that identity theft creates more than just financial hardship for victims — it has the capacity to invade many other areas of their lives,” stated the ITRC.
Contrary to popular belief, 90% of identity thieves use information extracted from print sources, which is why Velasquez urges individuals to shred personal and business documents that contain sensitive information. She also encourages people to check and empty out their purses or wallets regularly to minimize the risk of lost credentials.
Still, as the Internet becomes more ingrained in our everyday lives, the risk of identity theft from online information increases. As many as 80% of all security breaches are due to weak passwords. Vasquez urges Internet users to strengthen their passwords and all privacy settings.
“Make sure you’re not just putting yourself out there and being the low-hanging fruit,” she said. “Make it more challenging for the thieves.”