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Identity Theft Victims Undergo Avalanche Of Headaches

Even for identity theft victims who have paid for credit monitoring, recovering from such an attack can take months of non-reimbursed efforts to repair credit history, reported the Associated Press.

And the problem is getting much worse. It's not merely that thieves are accessing ever-large lists of names courtesy of well-publicized breaches at companies including Target, the Home Depot and Sony, but that they are harvesting a much higher percentage of those names than ever. Javelin Strategy & Research now estimates that one in three Americans affected by a data breach ultimately became the victim of fraud last year -- up from one in nine in 2010.

The AP story looked at several cases, including that of Mark Kim, who was given free credit monitoring courtesy of Target when his name got grabbed from that chain's massive breach last year. That monitoring caught new accounts being created at Macy's and Kohl's, where thieves charged more than $7,000. "Over the next seven months, the New York City resident spent hours on the phone, most of a day in a police station filing a report, and countless time sending documents to banks and credit reporting agencies to clear his credit history."

Unless specialized insurance is purchased, none of that time and effort is reimbursed, unless the victim successfully sues someone. And such successes are rare. Debit card fraud is among the worst as bank accounts can be emptied and it can take banks a long time before the money is restored—and a far longer time to fix the damage caused by a lot of bounced checks. The bank charge for those bounced checks is often the least of the victim's concerns.

"Although banks often absorb bogus charges, it's up to victims to clean up their credit histories and recover stolen funds. On top of lost time, money and emotional energy, victims face the frustration of rarely seeing anyone pay for the crimes. Identity theft cases are rarely prosecuted," the AP story noted.

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