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Identity Theft

We live in a society that freely traffics goods, services, information and money on the internet.  The resulting information superhighway facilitates endless avenues to pursue personal fulfillment and happiness.

Unfortunately, some like to pursue personal happiness at the expense of unsuspecting victims by assuming their identities, then disappearing from the scene, leaving a trail of unexpected debt for the victim. Identity theft is now reported as America’s fastest growing crime. Some 9.9 million Americans were victimized by identity thieves costing them somewhere around $5 billion dollars.

According to the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act 18 USC 1028 (a) (7): “Identity theft is a criminal offense. It occurs when a person knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit or to aid or abet any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of federal law or that constitutes a felony under any applicable state or local law.”

In summary; Identity Theft is the criminal attempt to steal someone’s personal identification information, such as name, address, Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, etc., to access his/her financial information with the intent to extort funds.

Identity thieves are diversified in their approach and often use these popular tactics :

  • Posing as a loan officer and ordering your credit report to discover your lines of credit.
  • Peering over your shoulder at the ATM or phone booth to get you PIN number.
  • "Dumpster diving” to find your unshredded credit applications, canceled checks, bank records or documents with personal information.
  • Stealing mail directly from your mailbox.
  • Sending bogus e-mails purportedly from reputable businesses and organizations, which are laden with links to sites that ask for Social Security numbers, bank account information, PIN number, etc.
  • With the advent of the mobile and wireless marketing personal information is even more susceptible to being stolen, as anyone with a laptop can hijack a wireless connection from any personal residence or business.

Still there are a few steps you can take to keep your identity safely intact.

The US Postal Service (USPS) offers the following advice:

  • Deposit outgoing mail at a Post Office or a blue U.S. Postal Service collection box, or give it directly to your letter carrier.
  • Shred or tear up unwanted documents that contain personal information before discarding them.
  • Review your consumer credit reports annually.
  • Never give personal information over the phone or the Internet unless you initiated the contact.
  • Report lost or stolen credit cards to the issuer immediately.
  • Sign your new credit cards—before someone else does.
  • Memorize your Social Security number.
  • Never leave receipts behind.
  • Check expiration dates on credit cards and contact issuer if you don’t receive a prompt replacement in the mail.
  • Match credit card receipts against monthly bills and check statements for accuracy.

Nothing should stand in the way of an honest person reaping the benefits of his/her hard work and scrupulous efforts to maintain a good line of credit. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world, for it also provides places for criminals to steal the identities of victims.

Stay abreast of the latest scams and scammers and head them off before they victimize you. You guard your personal belongings, so just take the extra step and guard your personal information.

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