Identify Theft Stories-The Bad & the Ugly
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes on an international level. By some estimates, there are over 10 million victims every year. The Federal Trade Commission also estimates that about 3.7% of Americans have made fraudulent purchases by using money that is not theirs. The most common motive for identity theft is economic gain. By stealing personal information, such as your Social Security Number, bank account or credit card number, telephone calling card number, identity thieves can make a profit at your loss.
Identity thieves use several different tactics to collect the information that they want. One such method is known as “shoulder surfing,” whereby a thief will be standing in a public place, such as near a public telephone, and watch over your shoulder as you punch in your credit card number. They may also be able to overhear your conversations with hotels or rental car agencies as you dictate your credit card number aloud. One other commonly used practice is what is known as “dumpster diving.” Identity thieves commonly sift through the trash receptacles of their victims where they might discover old checks, bank statements, and credit card bills which contain personal information. With this sort of personal information, it is easy for thieves to get control of bank accounts and other assets in the future.
Identity theft happens just about everywhere. Jennifer Mullner, a former loan services representative at a small bank was charged with stealing over 240 bank documents and passing them along to a man by the name of Anthony Wood through her boyfriend, William Roman. The trio accumulated over $100,000 in assets by stealing the identities of five people. They were later found and arrested.
Toni Hall, a single mother of two children created a huge problem for herself when she logged into her online banking account to pay off some bills. She figured that the $1,000 in her bank account was more than enough to pay off all of these bills. Yet the next morning, her bank called asking to know why she transferred all the money out of her and her son’s accounts into an unknown bank account. A while later, the companies whom she had written checks to wanted to know why they couldn’t collect their money. The reason, her checks had bounced. Although the bank refunded her money to her, she was not able to recover from the damage to her reputation. She is still unable to write checks in certain establishments and the whole fiasco wasn’t even her fault.
Another woman, Tina Ryan, was arrested and sentenced to ninth months in jail for copying credit card information at her company and then using the information to purchase gifts for herself and others. Investigators have discovered that she had purchased over 100 gifts in such a manner. When it comes to identity theft and protecting yourself from it, there are some clear do’s and don’ts. First of all make sure to shred all credit card and bank statements after your done using them. Close all of your old and unused bank and credit card accounts. Keep your pin number hidden when using it in a public place. Be sure to contact your service provider if an expected bill fails to arrive. At the same time, never give out personal information over the phone or internet unless it’s a company that is known to you. Never carry details like bank account numbers, pin numbers, and your SSN in your wallet and this can be easily stolen. Also, avoid using your SSN on your checks as a personal identifier as copies of these checks may be easily discovered.
In summary, identity theft is a crime that can happen to you. Use common sense and evasive action to ensure you’re not one of the victims.