Identity Theft: A Low–Income Issue

By: Sarah Dranoff. Published by: American Bar Association, Dialogue. Published on: December 15, 2015.

Link to article

This article looks at how identity theft impacts low-income individuals harder than others.

Highlights include:

  • “Identity theft can be especially devastating for low–income people because it jeopardizes basic income sources and vitally necessary services. At all income levels, financial harm is typical: in 2008, 62% of identity theft victims reported a direct or indirect financial loss associated with the theft. However, for low–income individuals and families, the financial injury, emotional stress, and other effects experienced by identity theft victims across the income spectrum are often compounded by severe and immediate consequences to crucial needs–based benefits, subsidized housing, employment, utility service, and medical care. To cite one example, SBLS often sees clients whose need–based SSI benefits are threatened due to fraudulent earnings appearing on their records. The process of proving that a disabled recipient did not earn the wages that appear in Social Security’s records can be lengthy and challenging, often requiring an administrative hearing in addition to filing identity theft reports and affidavits with other agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, FTC, and local police. Barriers such as limited English proficiency and limited phone and computer access increase the need for advocacy assistance in addressing identity theft affecting low–income clients.”
  • “Greater awareness of typical identity fraud scenarios can improve the ability of legal services providers and pro bono attorneys to spot and respond to issues that may fall beyond the immediate matter presented by the client. The particular consumer law or benefits issue a client seeks help with may in fact be one aspect of a broader identity theft problem. Furthermore, in some cases, identity theft may stem from an abusive relationship in which the abuser disturbs the victim’s ability to gain economic security and self–sufficiency. Ninety–nine percent of domestic violence survivors report that they were subjected to economic abuse at some point during their relationship.”


Categories: Consumer, Consumer/finance, Consumers, Legal Aid Practitioners, National, News Media, Policymakers and Funders, Researchers and Academics, Victims of Crime

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