How Many Hours to Fix Identity Theft?

april 21, 2021 | identity theft
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Identity theft hits millions of Americans every year. Restoration can be reasonably routine or amazingly complex. Did someone open a credit account in your name? That's a pretty straightforward case. A crook stole your 9-year-old's identity to obtain a home mortgage that's now in foreclosure? That’s complicated. It's impossible to give a single figure for the time investment required for recovery, but "How Long" is probably the first question victims ask.

A new report yields some estimates based on the type and duration of the theft; some of the numbers are daunting. You've probably never heard of the government agency that crunches those numbers. It’s the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), which publishes a National Crime Victimization Survey every other year. Efforts to evaluate various criminal activities are part of the agency's mission; each NCVS doc contains details on identity theft victims age 16 and older.

The consultation process is time-consuming, so the new report released in April 2021 concerns victims damaged in 2018. Still, these document pages lay bare some intriguing patterns of identity theft and repair.

National Crime Victimization Survey Length of Recovery Time Chart

Source: 2018 Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey

This chart from the 2018 NCVS document outlines times spent on recovery. You'll see that the most significant slice of crimes can be resolved in under a day; they're the easy, singular cases.

Roughly 10-15% of the victim pool fall are pretty complicated, taking 3 to 6 months or longer to wrap up. This challenging group demands more hard work to resolve.

What's Simple Fraud?

If someone opened a credit card account in your name recently, a simple alert to the issuing institution and all major credit bureaus could stop the fraud cold.

More complicated cases require multifaceted solutions. Even in simple scenarios, set a fraud alert with credit reporting agencies and possibly freeze your credit, too. The clock is ticking.

Direct or Indirect Losses?

Financial losses due to ID theft are considered direct consequences; they're not difficult to measure and track. BJS records revealed monetary losses from identity thefts topped $15.1 billion in 2018. The prior report covering 2016 targets showed $17.5 billion taken.

Secondary injuries include emotional stress, possible credit score damage, and that lost time. Lots of lost time. You'll need a list of individuals and businesses that need alerts ASAP. These notifications should be in writing to protect yourself. Then there's the challenge of determining how deep the roots of the fraud went.

Expect to spend hours researching your situation. Would you know whether a thief applied for a payday loan using your ID? Where should you look for a change of address form filed in your name that's diverting your mail to a thief's address? These are just some of the issues you'll tackle by the time you finish.

Timely Statistics

The recent NCVS report states, "In 2018, an estimated 23 million persons, or about 9% of all United States residents age 16 or older, reported that they had been victims of identity theft."

Several findings are noteworthy. "For 90% of identity-theft victims, the most recent incident involved only the misuse or attempted misuse of at least one type of existing account, such as a credit card or bank account."

Existing account access abuses are not difficult to resolve, but you won't know your problem's scope until you start digging. Is there just one credit card floating around in your name, or are there multiple branches of larceny to investigate?

Researchers found that despite consumers’ best efforts, "An estimated 4% of victims did not know whether they had resolved financial and credit problems caused by the theft."

For cases that involve layer upon layer of data abuse, it can take months to peel that onion. You’ve probably heard the horror stories of fixes that take 100 or 200 hours to implement. Occasionally, a complex resolution eludes a victim for years.

Long Haulers

Identity theft repairs drag on for months or years in notable cases. Five major types of ID theft may seem never-ending for compromised individuals.

  • When a child is a target, it may take years just to uncover the damages. Child identity theft is perhaps the most brutal crime to find and often quite complex.
  • Government identification theft when the thief has created a bogus driver's license or other documents in your name endures a long time. Faked IDs can lead to criminal charges recorded in your name, police actions and even arrests. Instances of these cases running for years are not uncommon.
  • Medical identification theft compromises your health insurance, runs up bills in your name, and can blend your health records with those of a stranger creating health risks.
  • Income tax-related identity theft will grab your hard-earned tax return. IRS investigations can take 180 days or more to settle.
  • Employment-based identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number (SSN) seeking employment. A blended identity emerges using someone else's data and yours. Often a government notice that you owe taxes may be the first clue to employment ID theft.

Stress and Resolution

The longer it takes to clear up ID theft, the more incidental damages crop up. The 2016 NCVS file indicated that, while only 4% of the victims who spent a day repairing their identity experienced severe emotional distress, that number jumped to 36% if the case ran on for six months or longer.

Two years later, 32% of victims who spent six months or more fixing financial or credit problems reported severe emotional distress—a slight but concerning decline. These statistics are key: the faster the technical recovery, the more rapidly the person will feel whole again.

Shield Yourself

So much vital data is linked to you and your reputation. It's no easy task to monitor all these details, but IDShield could do much of the tough work for you. We monitor SSNs, medical insurance plan numbers, driver's licenses, credit applications, payday loans, subprime loans and more. Continuous identity monitoring can often catch data leaks faster than you might. Speed of detection equals faster containment.

There is also a federal resource you could try if you elect to battle identity miscreants on your own. The Federal Trade Commission accepts reports on identity theft losses and can offer guidance.

IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage, and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.