Recovering from ID Theft Can Be Difficult, Costly, Victims Report

July 26, 2005

Twenty-eight percent of identity theft victims indicate they have not been able to restore their identities, despite averaging more than a year trying.

Results of a survey of 1,097 identify theft victims by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. also shows victims spend an average of 81 hours trying to resolve their case.

According to the survey, the average amount of total charges made using a victim’s identity is $3,968. While most victims were not held responsible for fraudulent charges, 16 percent report having to pay for some or all of the thief’s purchases. One victim from Hartford, Conn., whose case remains unresolved stated: “It ruined my credit, it ruined my financial life. If not straightened out within the next four months I will file bankruptcy.”

More than half of all victims discovered their identity theft themselves, either by noticing unusual charges on their credit card or discovering funds were missing from their accounts. Only 17 percent were notified by a creditor or financial institution of suspicious activity on their account. It also took those surveyed, on average, five-and-a-half months after the crime occurred to realize that they were a victim.

“Nationwide conducted this survey of identity theft victims to provide a current snapshot of the extent of the crime and its impact on victims,” said Kirk Herath, associate general counsel for Nationwide. “The survey shows that recovering from identity theft can be difficult, costly and stressful, but what is most alarming is that despite the time, money and personal duress victims go through, resolution is not always achieved.”

Often, ID theft victims don’t know whom to turn to for help in restoring their identity. Forty percent of the victims named either the police, financial institutions or credit issuers as the most difficult to work with while attempting to resolve their case. Poor customer service and failure to resolve the fraudulent charges were at the root of their dissatisfaction. A victim from Orlando, Fla. noted: “The institution we do all of our banking with made us feel like we were the ones trying to ‘pull’ something.”

“What a victim really needs to achieve resolution,” according to Herath, “is an advocate – someone who is on their side, that can provide professional guidance to help ease the burden and speed the process of restoring a stolen identity.”

The survey of 1,097 adults in 10 major metropolitan markets was conducted June 10-20, 2005. The survey has a margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.

Nationwide, based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the world, with more than $157 billion in assets. The company provides insurance and financial services, including auto, homeowners, life, health, commercial insurance, administrative services, annuities, mutual funds, pensions and long-term savings plans.

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