You've heard about identity theft, but just how widespread is it? Our exclusive MoneyTips survey revealed that nearly half of adult Americans are identity theft victims.
We surveyed 509 Americans in November to learn that nearly 2 in 3 Americans had either lost or had stolen their wallets, purses, pocketbooks or money clips (we'll use 'wallet' from now on to represent these four accessories). We then asked all of the respondents:
44% (223) of those surveyed said they had fallen victim to identity theft. 17% blamed their wallet's disappearance, while the rest attributed it to other reasons. Among those whose wallets vanished, 47% reported they were an identity theft victim, compared to only 38% of those who never had their wallet disappear.
The higher your annual income, the more likely you are to be a victim. While 42% of those earning less than $50,000 annually reported their identity had been stolen, 45% of those earning between $50,000 and $125,000 were victims, as were 49% of those earning $125,000 or more.
Greg Scott, an identity theft victim who has a plan to reform the credit reporting industry, says, "Wow. When I first read those numbers, I got mad at consumers for being so cavalier. We are too cavalier about our identities, but we also need to fix a systemic problem. Consider that every American has a sort-of unique Social Security number, and we're supposed to keep this number secret. But since the credit reporting industry uses it to track our credit histories, we need to disclose that number to banks, auto dealerships, employers, and anyone who loans us money. And so, by now, our "secret" number is in databases everywhere, and most of them have been breached. Is it any wonder our personal information is up for sale in underground websites?
"These survey results scream we need to reform the credit reporting system to make Social Security numbers less important and take away the assumption they're secret."
Cautions Steven Millstein, credit repair consultant at CreditRepairExpert.org, "Your Social Security card should NEVER live in your wallet but should instead be kept safely at home or locked up at the bank in a safety deposit box. You want to be sure that you keep track of your wallet with your ID and your credit cards, and you'll regularly want to invest in a new wallet as soon as your old one starts to wear out or loosen up."
We then asked:
Coincidentally, the percentage of people who use a credit monitoring service was the same as those who reported that they didn't need any protection: 35%. Only 6% reported using a lost wallet protection service, while 5% relied on a wallet chain! In all, 38% had at least one of the first two protections in place, while another 26% expressed interest in protecting their wallets. A MoneyTips Premium membership includes both a robust credit monitoring service and protection against lost or stolen wallets.
Women were more likely than men to desire protection but lack it, 28% to 22%. Not surprisingly, men used wallet chains more than twice as much as women, 7% to 3%.
Of the identity theft victims, 45% use a credit monitoring system, as compared to only 27% of those who were not violated in that way. Did the people who suffered through identity theft learn from their mistakes, and now monitor their credit so it won't happen again? Do you want to learn from their mistakes?
Says personal finance expert and author Jordan Goodman, "You've got to protect yourself against ID theft in every way possible, because if your identity gets stolen, your credit score can really plunge dramatically through no fault of your own. In many cases, it's not that you did something wrong. You have been hacked at a central place and they stole your numbers, they bought all kinds of stuff, and did cash advances – that's going to hurt your credit score badly. So, you got to get that stuff off, so use a good quality identity theft protection service to keep your credit score up."
For Lost Wallet Protection and Assistance, along with credit monitoring, reports, and scores, identity theft protection, $1 million identity theft insurance and full-service identity restoration, get a free MoneyTips trial.
For more of our exclusive data and insights, visit MoneyTips Missing Wallet Survey Findings.