At Wednesday’s luncheon hosted by the Identity Theft Institute at Hodges University, the dean of the Johnson School of Business, Dr. Aysegul Timur revealed a mind boggling statistic.
Since September 1, the estimated economic impact of identity theft nationwide is over $36 billion.
“Both the empirical and the theoretical literature on identity fraud are in their infancy,” Timur explained. “What I am presenting to you is what is and what is not known about the prevalence and costs of identity theft.”
Florida is a hotbed for identity theft activity. According to Timur, Florida has the highest instances of identity theft in the nation, and has four of the top 12 metro areas for occurrences. Naples ranks fifth in the nation among all metro areas for identity theft, Cape Coral-Fort Myers in 11th. Neither can touch the undisputed king of identity theft, Miami, which nearly doubles the instances of identity theft per 100,000 residents of second place Seattle.
“We want to catch these people and put them in jail,” said Florida Representative Kathleen Passidomo, who authored a bill in the state legislature to modernize the state’s identity theft laws, and stiffen penalties for offenders.
“These laws will help law enforcement prosecute identity theft and pursue these criminals.”
Carrie Kerskie, the director of the Identity Theft Institute, talked about how changing technologies have only made it easier for would be thieves to get personal information. Kerskie talked about the transition of corporate recordkeeping, and even Social Security data to an electronic basis, allows for easier access to information.
One such example is the Social Security Administration’s online service, MySSA, where all of a given individual’s data about Social Security is housed, including when and how they want their distribution of benefits. When Kerskie asked how many of the 150 people in attendance had heard of the site, fewer than a third had.
“That’s the problem,” Kerskie told the audience. “People don’t know, but criminals do.”
Hodges formed the Identity Theft Institute to educate the public about the dangers of identity theft. The school is offering non-degree courses on a variety of subjects, including scam identification, understanding credit reports, and knowing state and federal laws to protect individuals after they believe they’ve become a victim. The latter, Kerskie says is more likely to be a when, than an if.
“If it hasn’t happened to you, it will,” Kerskie said. “Identify theft happens every two seconds, which means by the time we’re done here, 360 people will be affected.”
“Will you be one of them?”
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