Study: Women More Affected By ID Fraud

ID theft 60 minutes II lynn CBS

This story was written by CNET's Elinor Mills.


Women are more affected by identity fraud then men are, according to a new survey that also found that it takes women longer to restore their identities but they also tend to change their behavior afterward.

In a survey of 808 U.S. households, half of which reported fraud, 28 percent of women said they had been victims of identity fraud compared with 21 percent for men.

This corresponds with a report in February from Javelin Research that found that women were 26 percent more likely to be victims of identity fraud than men.

In the latest survey, from fraud protection service provider Affinion Security Center, 17 percent of women said they lost $1,000 or more from the fraud compared 10 percent for the men.

Women also are more concerned about identity theft than men, with about 80 percent saying they were "most concerned" with identity theft compared to less than 60 percent with for men, the survey found.

The disparity between the genders could have to do with the purchasing decisions women make in the household, said Tom Rusin, chief executive of Affinion Security Center.

"Also, men might see this crime as something that they can deal with on their own," he said. "It's no different than a man who waits three weeks to go to the dentist after experiencing a tooth ache, whereas a women might be more likely to address the ache much more quickly."

Annie Kim, a 29-year-old who works in advertising, said she got all her money back when someone cashed checks in her name and charged purchases to her accounts in 2005. But it took her nearly a year--and many hours of worry, frustration, and effort--to clear everything up.

It all started when she got phone calls one afternoon from two of her credit card companies informing her that someone tried to cash blank checks they had mailed to her for thousands of dollars. A few days later, she got her bank statement and saw that someone had paid bills with checks that used her bank account and routing information but a different name and address.

"At that point, I was pretty freaked out," Kim said in a phone interview on Thursday. "I ordered a credit report and that's how I found out that it was postal fraud."

Basically, someone had walked into a U.S. post office and filled out an address change request form in her name that forwarded her mail to a different address. The post office does not require people to show proof of identity when they do this in person, although it does charge people one cent on a payment card to verify identity when they do it online, according to Kim.

She quickly canceled her bank and credit cards, only to find that other accounts were getting hit too. For instance, she had $800 in charges for new
cell phones and service on her Sprint bill that she had not authorized.

Kim said she tried to file a crime report but was told by police that she needed to name a perpetrator to do that. She also tried to hunt down the person responsible but that too was a dead end.

"I'm an 'A' type of person and I'm pretty aggressive, but you can imagine a lot of people wouldn't be able to handle all of this," she said. "If you are a victim of identity theft you are on your own. There is a lot of work and diligence that goes into it. You have to stay on top of it to get your money back and clear your name."

Kim has tips for consumers who want to protect themselves against identity fraud:

  • Sign up proactively for credit monitoring services, which offer alerts if there is any change to bank and credit accounts. "The cost for me is totally worth it," she said.

  • Request that special passwords be required for important activity with bank and credit accounts, as well as utilities.

  • Cancel printed statements and get statements them online only. "It's better for the environment anyway," she said.

    By Elinor Mills
    • CBSNews

    Comments