• March 8, 2022
  • Posted by General Electric Credit Union
  • 3 min read

The Impact of Identity Theft

Between 2019 and 2020 alone, rates of identity theft and fraud increased a whopping 47%.1 Whether you know someone who’s experienced identity theft or not, you likely know it’s bad news. But are you familiar with the specifics? Use the guide below to better understand its short- and long-term effects, as well as how you can hopefully avoid it altogether.

What identity theft entails

When a criminal steals your identity, they may use your personal information to commit fraudulent acts. For example, they could use your name to apply for credit or file taxes. You’ll be exposed to a number of problems as a result, including financial loss, stress, and even employment issues.

Financial loss

One of the most obvious effects of identity theft is financial loss. A criminal could rack up hundreds of dollars in debt on credit cards opened illegally with your information. While the overall average cost for identity theft incidents is $1,000,2 this number is unfortunately higher for seniors. The 70-79 age range is the hardest hit with an average of $45,300 lost.3 Elder fraud is a pervasive issue, so familiarize yourself with red flags to protect yourself or senior loved ones.


Identity fraud often requires on-going damage control long after the initial crime. Some individuals may think the incident is behind them only to spot more unauthorized transactions in the future. This hypervigilance and on-going financial loss may cause these individuals a great deal of stress.

Employment issues

Did you know some employers check your credit score? They use this number to gauge how responsible or trustworthy you are. For some companies, a slew of missed credit card payments and debts in collections indicate someone who will be equally irresponsible on the job. Whether or not this is a fair conclusion for them to draw, it’s important to remain mindful of their perspective. Unfortunately, the financial fallout from identity theft can take a hit on your credit. For example, you may miss payments on a card you never knew was opened.

How to avoid it

While it’s difficult to stop all forms of fraud, there are steps you can take to lower your risk. Below are a few tips and resources General Electric Credit Union (GECU) suggests using to accomplish this:

  • Review your transaction history. While many unauthorized transactions are covered by your financial institution’s Zero Liability policy, you have to report them immediately. The more time that passes, the less likely you are to recoup the lost funds. For this reason, it’s crucial to review your transaction history on a consistent basis. Enroll in Online Banking or download your financial institution’s mobile app to keep your accounts at your fingertips 24/7/365.
  • Set up Debit Card Controls. Set spend limits, turn foreign transactions on and off, and so much more with Debit Card Controls. If someone steals your personal information and tries to make a purchase that falls outside your customized preferences, they’ll be denied. Learn more about Debit Card Controls with this helpful infographic.
  • Access your credit report. You can spot signs of fraud by combing through your credit report. Incorrect personal information – such as an incorrect spelling of your name – and unfamiliar lender or accounts are just two to look for. Get yours at no cost up to three times per year through annualcreditreport.com. Plus, check your FICO® Score online for free.
  • Arm yourself with knowledge. Criminals change tactics often. From mail delivery scams to sweetheart scams, they’ll stoop to the lowest lows to gain access to your information. Luckily, the Federal Trade Commission publishes scam alerts so you know how to spot a trick. You’ll know the script these criminals use and red flags that indicate trouble.
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