Identity Theft

With our increased dependence on computers and the internet almost everyone is susceptible to the crime of Identity Theft. No number of uniformed officers or patrol cars can protect someone from Identity Theft.

Identifying Identity Theft

Identity theft occurs when someone uses information that identifies you personally, like your name, Social Security number or credit card numbers without your knowledge or permission in order to commit fraud or other crimes.

This crime takes many forms. Identify thieves may rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account in your name. You may not learn that this has occurred until you review your credit report or a credit card statement and notice charges that you didn’t make. Sometimes you find out about this when a collection agency calls you.

Identity theft is very serious and can have long lasting effects on its victims. While some victims resolve their problems quickly, others spend hundreds of dollars and many weeks or months repairing the damage to their good name and credit record. Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. In some cases these victims have even been arrested for crimes that did not commit.

How Identity Theft Happens

Identity theft starts when the thief obtains the personal information that identifies you, such as your Social Security number credit card number or information from a financial account. For identify thieves, this information is as good as gold. Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to obtain your information, including:
  • Dumpster diving: They rummage through trash looking for bills or other papers that contain your personal information.
  • Skimming: They steal credit/debit card numbers by using a special storage device when your card is being processed at a store, restaurant or gas pump.
  • Phishing: They pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send span or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.
  • Changing your address: They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a change of address form.
  • Pretexting: They use false pretenses to obtain your personal information from financial institutions, telephone companies and other sources.
  • Old-fashioned stealing: They steal wallets, purses, mail, bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, new checks and/or tax information. They still personnel records, or bribe employees who have access to them to do so.

How Stolen Identity is Used

Once they have your personal information, identity thieves use it in a variety of different ways.
  • Credit card fraud: They may open new card accounts in your name. When thy use the cards and don’t pay the bills, the delinquent accounts appear on your credit report. They may change the billing address on your credit card account so that you no longer receive bills and then run up charges on you account. Because you bill are now sent to a different address, it may take some time before you realize that there’s a problem.
  • Phone or utilities fraud: They may open a new phone or wireless account in your name, or run up charges on your existing account. They may use your name to obtain utility services lie electricity, heating and cable TV.
  • Bank/finance fraud: They may create counterfeit checks using your name and/or account number. They may open a bank account in your name and write bad checks. They may clone your ATM or debit card and make electronic withdrawals draining your accounts. They may take out a loan in your name.
  • Government documents fraud: They may get a driver’s license or another official ID card issued in your name but with their picture. They may use your name and Social Security number to obtain government benefits. They may file a fraudulent tax return using your information.
  • Other fraud: They may get a job using your Social Security number. They may rent a house or receive medical attention using your name. They may give your personal information to the police during an arrest. If they don’t show up for the court date an arrest warrant in your name could be issued.