43% of all identity theft complaints to the Federal Trade Commission in 2013 related to tax returns, up from 15% in 2010. This kind of theft is not difficult. All that’s needed is a Social Security Number (SSN) and some forged documents.
As we discussed last weekend, hackers and identity thieves are cross-referencing data they steal from various sources. If a hacker was able to obtain your name and a few other bits of information, they can search online or make a few phone calls to obtain more information, such as date of birth, address, account balances, income and net worth. Imagine the information that could be obtained from stealing your phone. With the right information, they can obtain your SSN. Having your SSN opens them up to a wealth of opportunities, such as opening credit cards, making purchases, applying for loans and filing your taxes to receive your returns.
This is why Target’s data breach is so egregious. The amount of data that was breached is staggering in an of itself. If that information is cross-referenced with information gleaned from stolen phones, mail, laptops or other sources people could be ruined. Many innocent people will be ruined and it will take years to correct. Some of the effects include damaged credit, costs to repair credit, financial loss, medical/health insurance fraud, criminal records and stolen Social Security benefits.