FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Toss out all your preconceived notions about identity theft impacting older people in big cities who mainly do business via "snail mail"–i.e. the mailbox. A new government report gives insight on where it's happening and to whom…and it may not be who, where, or how you think!
At least two million people across the country are recovering from identity theft. The fraud is at an all-time high, according to the Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, a report released by the Federal Trade Commission.
"I don't know how but someone over in Colorado at the time, got my information," says 28-year-old Clarity Smith.
The Plano woman is the typical identity theft victim. She's in her 20's and a recent college graduate who spends a lot of time on the computer.
"They had my social security, driver's license, billing address…."
After finishing college, Smith posted applications on several online job sites. She suspects that's how someone in Denver stole her identity.
"They went from department store to department store at three different malls over two days and opened up lines of credit."
She says the bills started arriving in the mail from Helzberg Diamonds, Victoria's Secret, and JC Penney stores.
"Once your info is out there, it's out there."
The 2012 FTC fraud report shows identity theft continues to be the number one fraud complaint in the country.
Findings show 21% of the consumers complaining are in their 20′s, while only 8% are in their 70′s.
It reports criminals targeted nearly 30,000 consumers in Texas making the Lone Star State seventh in the country for identity theft victims in 2012. Florida had the most complaints. South Dakota had the least.
However, it was not necessarily big metropolitan areas in Texas topping the list of worst cities. The Dallas-Fort Worth area is not the area in Texas that received the most complaints based on population. The Beaumont-Port Arthur area ranked 24th in the nation for identity theft complaints. Dallas-Fort Worth-and Arlington ranked 31st. The Houston, Sugarland, Baytown area came in 41st. And Killeen, Temple, Fort Hood also made the top 50 worst metropolitan areas in the country at 47th. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale topped the list with the most reported identity theft complaints in the United States.
Anne Lejeune is an attorney for the Federal Trade Commission. She says the report confirms criminals are most likely to reach you through email and by phone.
"These forms of communication have taken a larger role in the present day economy, sort of replacing mail," explains LeJeune.
She says the FTC has learned identity theft thieves are most often pretending to be a government agencies or a credit card companies asking for your personal information.
"Before responding to the call or email, contact the agency directly to verify the information."
As for Clarity Smith, just when she thought her credit was safe, she discovered someone else filed for HER tax return. She says this proves you can never be comfortable after it happens to you.
"I went to file my taxes electronically and I got a message back saying someone had already done it," explained Smith.
If you are a victim, here's some advice:
-Contact your bank, credit card companies and credit bureaus.
-Consider placing fraud alerts and credit freezes.
-Order copies of your credit reports.
-Contact the authorities.
For more information on how to prevent identity theft and what to do if you have become a victim, click on www.ftc.gov.