The statistics on identity theft in Arizona are startling. Almost 300,000 Arizonans had their identities stolen in 2007, the equivalent of everyone in Payson having their identities stolen 20 times over in one year.
Around 25 percent of the state’s residents have been victims of identity theft in the last six years, making Arizona the No. 1 state for identity theft four years running.
The majority of stolen identities, 36 percent, are used to gain unemployment fraudulently partly because of the state’s high rates of illegal immigration and methamphetamine use, according to Identity Theft 911, LLC.
And contrary to the belief that the elderly are the most common victims of identity theft, the majority of complaints filed are by 18 to 29 year olds with only 8 percent filed by 60 year olds and older, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
“You can take every other crime and combine it and it does not add up to the number of identity thefts,” said James Nunez with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office Tuesday at a business buzz luncheon held at Payson Care Center. “And identity theft is only getting worse.”
Nunez presented these hard facts, along with a rude wake-up call to anyone who thinks they are safe from identity theft.
“It is your responsibility if your identity is stolen,” he said.
If you are the victim of identity theft, it costs on average $1,500, 607 hours plus $16,000 in lost wages to correct the theft, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.
And even if you file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office, they only catch around one out of 700 thieves.
So it is up to the victim to make countless phone calls to banks and creditors, regularly check their credit, and pay out-of-pocket expenses for fraudulent charges.
But the attorney general’s office can help. A satellite office in Payson, at 215 N. Beeline Highway, staffed by volunteers can assist individuals with filing complaints and has educational materials.
If you are a victim of identity theft, you should contact the police, close any tampered accounts and place a fraud alert on your credit file.
To prevent identity theft, Nunez has several recommendations. Never carry your Social Security card, don’t give out personal information, especially over the phone, order a copy of your credit report, place passwords on bank, credit card and phone accounts and drop mail off at the post office.