More than 600,000 Americans and more than 100,000
British residents fall victim to identity theft every year. It
can take months or years for the victim to find out about
the fraud. Often, they find out when they receive a phone
call or a letter trying to collect a debt of several thousand
U.S. dollars (several hundred thousand Icelandic krónur)
for services they never used.
Typically, identity thieves establish a bank account,
credit card, car loan, or mortgage using the victim’s name
and personal details. But they give a false address, thus
ensuring that the victim will not easily find out what is
going on. The thief runs up a hefty debt on the account,
never pays, and then absconds before being found out,
leaving the victim with a ruined credit rating.
Victims can restore their financial credibility, but only
by spending hours making tedious phone calls. Americans
have become extremely edgy about the risk of identity
theft. Some shopping malls have, just this year, started
installing coin-operated paper shredders so that people
can destroy receipts that list their credit card numbers and
other personal details.