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One in 6 Victims Don’t Discover Their Identity Has Been Stolen Until Years Later

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Right now, somewhere else, someone may be walking around pretending to be you. A new report from the Identity Theft Resource Center suggests Americans aren’t doing enough to quickly detect identity theft, which often makes the recovery process much more costly and time-consuming.

The ITRC report is based on a survey of identity theft victims who reached out to the center in 2013 for support after learning they had been victimized. While the survey is not nationally representative, it provides valuable insight into the variety of challenges experienced by real identity theft victims. The data is based on responses from 201 victims in 39 states.

idtheft001The bulk of respondents (48%) noticed the fraud within three months from the crime’s start, but it’s quite common for crimes to go on undetected for more than a year. Nearly 20% didn’t notice until 13 to 24 months after someone started using their identities, and 16.2% didn’t notice till more than three years later. In that time, thieves were doing damage, including opening up new accounts, filing fraudulent tax returns, using the victims’ money, and committing crimes and receiving medical care in the victims’ names.

The sooner victims discover the crime, the less damage thieves do, ITRC reports, and there are several ways for you to detect such fraud. You can get your free annual credit reports to make sure there’s nothing on them you don’t recognize, and you can check your credit scores on a regular basis for sudden changes, which can indicate identity theft. You can get two of your credit scores for free every 30 days on Credit.com.

Even among all the victims who responded to the center’s survey, more than half haven’t yet seen their issues resolved. At the same time, 27.5% said their identity theft woes were taken care of within six months, but experiences differ based on what the thieves did with the information.

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