Identity Theft the Topic for CBG December 19

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Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. Carolyn Walls and Larry Lyons from Peoples Bank will describe precautions you can take to reduce your chances of becoming a victim at the December 19 meeting of the Community Breakfast Group (CBG).

The CBG meets for breakfast every Thursday at 7:30AM at the Holiday Inn Express in Chestertown.

With the increased use of impersonal communication devices like the internet, automated teller machines and credit cards, we no longer know the identity of those who we are conducting business with. Victims of identity theft usually do not suspect the theft until it is much too late, providing ample time for the thief to commit the crime and obtain property and services from vendors. Victims of identity theft often have their credit reports left in ruins after a successful identity theft occurs. In addition, financial institutions are victims of identity theft. These institutions will eventually refund the primary victim of the charges made to their account by the thief, leaving the financial institution with the financial loss. This eventually creates more victims, since the financial institutions will increase fees for other consumers.

Just most of the cost of abusive tort laws is not in the direct cost of the lawsuits, but in the cost of the steps institutions must take to prevent falling victim to these suits, the cost of the identity thefts is mostly in the cost of preventing the thefts. The IRS alone now has 3,000 full-time workers who address matters related to ID theft, so as to combat what has become a 60 percent rise in the problem over the last four years. And that just represents the cost of addressing fraudulent tax returns.

Most people do not use stolen identity information to steal from the person whose identity they have stolen. They use the stolen identify for things like getting a job, filing fraudulent tax returns or evading arrest. To the extent the thief steals from an individual, the financial institution will bear most of the cost. But the cost to the individual victim of an identity theft is considerable. It takes the average victim an estimated $500 and 30 hours to resolve each identity theft crime. And they never can really clean up their credit records.

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