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According to Federal Trade Commission research, 1 in 4 Americans will become an Identity Theft victim at least once.

What exactly is Identity Theft?

ID Theft in very straightforward terms is fraud. This isnít a victimless crime. In fact, ID Theft has a large economic and personal effect. It robs individuals of their reputation and what they have worked hard to obtain, and then it gives them a heightened sense of vulnerability. Because if it happened once, it could happen again, and to some individuals, Identity Theft has occurred more than once.

There are 4 basic parts to Identity Theft. First, personal information is acquired or stolen. This can be done by any number of means, and it is important to take as many steps to safeguard your personal information as possible. Second, someone utilizes the information gained. The cases that have gained the largest amount of exposure is someone using another personís credit card. In fact, this only represents only about a quarter of Identity Theft cases. Even more common is someone living their life with an acquired identity. The third part is detection. A victim is still a victim even if they donít know their information is being used. The fourth part is restoration. This can be a long process depending on how much damage was done and how early the crime was detected.

Criminals donít seem to discriminate either with their victims. Lower income families as well as upper income and executives have been victims. There seems to also be no age range as well. Young as well as older Americans have been victimized, and this also a genderless crime. Women and men are seen as opportunities. So defending your identity is really a life-long activity.

Realize this about identity theft. A personís personal information may be acquired but not used for some time. This all depends on the opportunity to use the information and the timing of the crime. There are those whose information has been used right away, within a few days, or even years later. So it not so much the matter of if you become a victim, but rather when you become a victim.

Identity Theft is not a small time crime. Last year it became a larger revenue source than the illegal drug trade. There are markets for identities both in the US and overseas. It wouldnít be surprising if terrorists use this method for raising revenue since they are known to use other fraudulent means as well.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the Government Agency responsible for Identity Theft. They have launched an Education Campaign to help Deter, Detect, and Defend against Identity Theft. Realize that if you were to join the majority of Identity Theft victims, then this would be the government agency that would support the restoration process. Unfortunately, the statistics show that restoration is usually a long-drawn out process, and some individuals only meet with limited success.

Restoration is the recovery from Identity Theft, and the FTC has a very detailed process. There are volumes of paperwork and forms to complete, and the average person usually takes about two months to complete the entire process. Some statistics show that the average person in addition to having to make the time to do all the steps still ends up having to pay about $1,800 and that figure rises every year. Think about what that would cost you in terms of lost work hours and out of pocket expenses.

The cost of fraud passes on through our economy because someone has to pay for the stolen items. This usually means some form of price rate increases. To a degree, we all share the burden of this crime. Some pay to a greater degree. Victims are forced to sometimes pay twice, once with having their identity stolen from them and again if they are held liable for acts done in their name.

The FTC is taking a very good approach with its Education Campaign. The first step to deterring, detecting and defending is learning how to do this and utilizing truly effective measures. The bottom line though is this: if someone is truly determined to commit a crime, then it may be impossible to stop them, but the prepared person is more likely to recover faster than the unprepared. Also, some criminals look for the easy opportunities, so by making things difficult, you may be able to limit your likeliness of being their next target.

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Deter, Detect, Defend. Fighting back against identity theft. Click on this image to visit the FTC site.

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