Consumers everywhere know that it's in their best interest to respond quickly to suspicions about identity theft, since this can save a considerable amount of time and money. However, people may be less likely to realize that by doing their part to catch identity thieves, they are also helping to keep people who commit other dangerous crimes off the street.
A recent Los Angeles Times report provided some examples of identity thieves who had been arrested in New York for running a ring that sold phony documents to criminals for various purposes.
The newspaper noted that one such criminal was a sex offender who was committing identity theft to avoid registration, while others included a repeat drunken driving offender and a convict who had served time for firearms and drug trafficking.
The newspaper also noted that terrorists have been known to use identity theft to mask their identities, while others who may resort to such methods include child abusers and healthcare fraud scammers.
Given the dangers of identity theft and the lost time and money it can result in, it's important for people to check their credit report. Under federal law, consumers can get a copy of their credit report once a year from each of the three leading credit bureaus.
Keeping an eye out for mistaken or suspicious information on a credit report is one good way to reduce the risk of falling victim to identity theft. People should also pay attention to any suspicious calls from bill collectors as well as for credit accounts they had not been aware of.
Earlier this year, a report from Javelin Research found that 11.1 million adults had fallen victim to identity theft in 2009, marking a 12.5 percent increase as well as $54 billion in economic losses. At the same time, the company noted that victims are also getting assistance and resolving such incidents more quickly than ever.
In its report, Javelin also noted that more identity thieves are being arrested because victims are taking the time to file more police reports. In turn, this has led to more effective criminal investigations, and better coordination among law enforcement entities. According to Javelin, 2009 saw double the number of arrests for identity theft, as well as triple the prosecutions and twice as many convictions.
Despite the increased success by law enforcement, consumers can not take the safety of their personal data for granted.