NEW YORK (Credit.com) — If you still believe identity theft is a marketing gimmick, it's time to take a look at the Federal Trade Commission report released last week. Identity theft is once again the top complaint in America, as it has been for 13 years. Identity theft complaints surged by 32% in 2012 to nearly 370,000, and that number is intensified by the most recent Javelin report, which puts the number of instances of identity theft at 12.6 million. Even Javelin's figure is probably way lower than the real number, when you factor in all the cases that go unreported or categorized improperly.
It is no longer a question of if your identity will be stolen — the only unknown is when it will happen. The same goes for companies and government agencies that gather personal data on employees and consumers: there will be a data breach.
Hackers, identity thieves and fraudsters of all stripes have reached the conclusion that a stolen identity is a key that can unlock all kinds of fraud: opening doors to millions of dollars in instant profit, providing access to medical products, services and/or treatments on someone else's dime, even offering up an innocent fall guy to law enforcement officials all to eager to "get their man." Even if criminals weren't relentlessly hunting for our personal information (which they are), the steady stream of massive data breaches at companies and government agencies from the Department of Veterans Affairs to Blue Cross Blue Shield to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the South Carolina Department of Revenue to Sony to Twitter to LinkedIn (to name a few) guarantee that at least some, if not all, of your personal identifying information has already has been exposed to folks who know how to take the particulars of your life to promote their welfare.