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Home > People Search > Identity Theft

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 Identity Theft  

What is Identity Theft?

  • In 2000, there were an estimated 600,000 to 700,000 victims of Identity Theft in the USA, and has increased at a rate of 30-40% a year for the last few years.
  • At least seven million Americans, or some 3.4 per cent of the adult US population, have been victims of identity theft, according to a survey released mid 2003
  • The Secret Service estimated that in 1997 American consumers lost more than $745 million due to identity theft - for 2001 it will be in the billions.
  • An independent study in 1999, commissioned by Image Data LLC , an identity theft prevention service, found that approximately one out of every five Americans, or a member of their families, have been victimized by identity theft.
  • The average victim will spend 175 hours and $808 to clear their names.

Identity theft or identity fraud is the taking of the victim’s identity to obtain credit, credit cards from banks and retailers, steal money from the victim’s existing accounts, apply for loans, establish accounts with utility companies, rent an apartment, file bankruptcy or obtain a job using the victim’s name. It can take months or even years before the victim is aware of it.

How can it happen?

All that is needed is your social security number, your birth date and other identifying information such as your address and phone number and whatever else they can find out about you. With the exception of your SSN, this imformation is remarkedly easy to find. With this information, and a false driver’s license with their own picture, they can begin the crime. They apply in person for instant credit, or through the mail by posing as you. They often provide an address of their own, claiming to have moved. Often credit issuers do not verify this information. Once the imposter has opened the first account, they use this new account along with the other identifiers to add to their credibility, and the thief is well on his (or her) way to getting rich and ruining your credit and good name.

Where do they find your information?

Lots of places- your doctor, accountant, lawyer, dentist, school, place of work, health insurance carrier, and many others have your identifying information. If some criminally minded person is working at the office (or just visiting) finds this information, you would not know it. There are also Dumpster Divers who sort through rubbish for any un-shredded information, like utility bills or credit card slips. Or there's the more obvious ways, like losing your wallet or being burgled.

How can I prevent this from happening?

Destroy all papers you don't need, especially those with sensitive or identifying information. Paper shredders are best. Don't carry your social security card with you, or any cards or badges that may have your number on it. Don't put your SSN on checks.

Check all three of your credit reports once a year. This is one of the best ways to find out if someone is using your information without your knowledge. In most cases it will cost about $8 for each report unless you are a victim of financial crime or turned down for a job or credit due to your credit report.

Block your name from marketing lists - 888-5OPTOUT. This will reduce the number of pre-approved credit card offers you receive.

Get credit cards with your picture on them. Cancel any credit cards you rarely or no longer use - which means contacting the company, not just cutting up the card.

Watch what happens to your credit card when you give it to a salesperson or clerk. They could double skim charging you for your purchase but also running your card through a computer scanner. Later this information is downloaded on a counterfeit card and used by imposters.

How can I protect myself after it has happened?

As soon as you are made aware of the fraud (usually a creditor will contact you or you will be denied credit, or you will see charges that are not yours on bills) you must immediately contact the three major credit reporting agencies by phone and letter to put a fraud alert on your credit profile (see links below). Get copies of the reports so that you will know which are the fraud accounts, and call the police in the county where the fraud occurs. You will need detailed help, and it is available free from various organisations (links below). They can provide copies of attorney-written fill-in the blanks form letters to send to all the necessary agencies.

 identity theft restoration assistance and prevention center

Many police departments are reluctant to write a report on this type of crime. First of all, they may tell you that you are not the victim, because the credit grantor, who lost the money, is the victim. They often want the report to come from the creditor who many times will not cooperate because it is not cost effective for them to spend the time and energy to assist the police. They may have already lost thousands of dollars. This fraud loss (to them!) is viewed as a cost of doing business. It is not fair to you as the victim, and things have to change, but that is the situation in many places.

Even if the creditor won’t prosecute, you must insist that the police take a report. Speak to the head of the fraud unit, (or white-collar crime unit) of the police department in the county(s) or cities where the fraud accounts were opened. (If accounts were opened all over the nation, you may be able to get the secret service involved) You will need a report to clean up the credit mess.

If you still have trouble, call and write to the Chief of Police (see the letter in the Identity Theft Survival Kit). You may need to call the Mayor of the City Council. If you get stuck, contact The California Public Interest Research Group (PIRG,) or The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse or call an attorney for assistance.

See the Federal Trade Commission's information page

Keep the credit you still have...

Since your credit worthiness is shaky due to the fraud, you will probably have a hard time getting new credit in the near future. If you stop your credit, you may have trouble getting loans, a rental car, or even a job. For those accounts that have not be touched by the impersonator, immediately notify each credit grantor of your true accounts, and tell them that you are a victim of identity fraud. Tell them that they are not to change your address without verification from you in writing from your present address.

The Identity Theft Survival Kit: A Complete Guide for Restoring Your Credit and Your Peace of Mind (book, cassettes, and diskette)

Editorial Reviews

Jon Kyl, U.S. Senator, Chairman, Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government information
"Thank you for your testimony of May 20 as an advocate on behalf of victims of identity theft. Your detailed account of the impact of identity theft on consumers was compelling, especially in light of the extensive number of individuals to whom you have provided pro bono help. I also want to thank you for your support of my identity theft legislation, and your specific comments explaining the benefits of S. 512 to victims. Such testimony has been exceedingly helpful in providing the foundation for seeking broad-based Congressional support."

Judd A. Levenson, Detective - Major Crimes/Frauds Unit, Springfield Police Department "Your book is fantastic for aiding the victim in the credit nightmare to come when they attempt to clear up credit problems which results in a daily dreading of opening mail and receiving phone calls from the various collection agencies. Your book also greatly assists the victim in coping with the mind numbing realization of how easy a company believes the impersonator and how difficult this same business becomes when dealing with the identity fraud victim."

It's None of Your Business, A Complete Guide to Protecting Your Privacy, Identity, and Assets

Customer Reviews
Very clear and easy to get the information you need. Practical advice that can be implemented right away without spending a fortune. Shows the reader how to protect their assets, their family, and their personal information from credit thieves, hackers, and the lawsuit happy public. Has an excellent section on computers and the Internet. Also explains the advantages of offshore entities and trusts in layman's language. Great resource section at the end.


Identity Theft : Prevention and Survival (audio cassette)

Editorial Reviews

Author Mari J. Frank, Esq. October 20, 1998

These Experts Protect Your Privacy and Identity
Your entire identity can be stolen insidiously-without your knowledge! I know because it happened to me. In my quest to regain my life, I researched the law, the sources of the problem, and the myriad possible solutions. I interviewed dozens of experts on privacy, identity theft, consumer law and fraud. The interviews in this tape series include fascinating people like: Jim Bauer, Assistant Deputy Director of the Secret Service in Washington DC, Allan Troisclair, Vice President of Fraud For Visa USA, Beth Givens, Director of The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Ed Mierswinski, Director of the United States Public Interest Research Group, and other dynamic professionals who will tell you incredible stories and give you valuable insights into how to protect yourself from the fastest growing crime in America. You will discover how to be more conscious and careful with your personal information to avoid the nightmare of stolen identity.

 More Resources 

Official US Government Info

A newly installed FTC hotline (877-IDTHEFT) for reporting identity theft crimes is already logging more than 2,000 calls a week and many people don't yet know of its existence.

You can get records on yourself for free from the FBI. National Crime Information Center (NCIC) records are not considered public record and are only available to law enforcement. However, you can obtain your own criminal record from the FBI (only if they have a file on you) under the Freedom of Information Act by calling: 304-625-2000 or directly at 304-625-3878 8AM-4PM EST. You can also call the NCIC and the FBI directly at: 202-324-3000 for more details and ask for the Freedom of Information privacy section.

TransUnion: 800-888-4213 (fraud div.- 800-680-7289)
Experian: 888-EXPERIAN (fraud div.- 888-397-3742)
Equifax: 800- 685-1111 (fraud div.- 800-525-6285)

My ID Fix - Identity Theft Prevention and Assistance Resource Center - Covers both privacy and identity theft issues. - The Federal Trade Commission maintains this site and it is full of good information. You should register the identity theft with them. You can reach them toll-free: 1-877-IDTHEFT. The FTC keeps a database of identity theft crimes reported to them. -- Nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that  works for stronger privacy laws -- National Fraud Organization -- FutureCrime, a identity  theft and privacy advocacy -- National White collar Crime Center -- Social Security Administration             -- US Secret Service (info on internet fraud) or -- The FBI and their Internet Complaint Center

SWIPE - find out what data is stored (in code) in your driver's license, what data wholesalers know about you, and more...

"Don't Let This Happen To You " The World's Identity Theft Nightmare - book by Karyn Solocheck.

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