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EDUCATION - Know the Facts

FACT #1: Identity Theft is the fastest growing white-collar crime in the United States.

Approximately 10,000,000 (that’s Million!), or nearly 1 in 20, Americans are the victim of Identity Theft every year and that number keeps growing.

Identity thieves can steal your personal information in a variety of ways by...

  • Finding bank and credit card statements, pre-approved credit offers, and tax information from your mail or garbage.
  • Stealing personal information from your wallet or purse such as identification, credit, or bank cards.
  • Completing change-of-address forms to redirect your mail.
  • Acquiring personal information you share on unsecured sites on the Internet.
  • Buying personal information about you from an inside source -- for example, a store employee that gets your information from a credit application or by "skimming" your credit card information when you make a purchase.   [Click here for another frightening example of how your personal information can be compromised!]
  • Getting your personnel records at work.

Then they use your personal information by...

  • Opening new credit card accounts using your name, date of birth, and Social Security Number. When they use the credit cards and don't pay the bills, the delinquency maybe reported on your credit report.
  • Establishing phone or cellular service in your name.
  • Opening a bank account in your name and writing bad checks on the account.
  • Counterfeiting checks or debit cards, and draining your bank account.
  • Buying cars by taking out auto loans in your name.
  • Calling your credit card issuer and, pretending to be you, changing the address on the account. Bills get sent to the new address, so you may not realize there's a problem until you check your credit report.
  • Filing for bankruptcy using your name to avoid paying debts they've incurred under your name.

Question: "So, what's the big deal? I've got credit card protection and if an unauthorized charge shows up, I’ll just call the credit card company and they’ll remove it, right?"
Answer: "Ignorance may be bliss, but there is a lot more to ID theft than just fraudulent credit card charges. According to a study published by the Federal Trade Commission (September 2003) , the unauthorized use of credit cards is only one type of identity theft."

The truth is that, your credit card company can help you IF you are aware of the fraudulent charge AND notify them within a certain period of time (usually 60 days).

However, if a criminal changes the billing address with your credit card company or even opens a new credit card account in your name, you may not even be aware of the fraud until it’s too late.  You will still have the expense, in time, money, and aggravation, to straighten the whole mess out with the credit bureaus, etc.

Furthermore, criminals commit other frauds including the “misuse of the victim’s information to misrepresent a person’s identity when someone is charged with a crime by law enforcement authorities, when renting an apartment or home, when obtaining medical care or employment with the victim’s information, and similar misuses.” [pg 5, fn 3]

If you become a victim of identity theft, you could experience a variety of problems which include being:

  • Unable to obtain or use a credit card
  • Rejected for a loan (e.g. mortgage, home-equity, etc.)
  • Harassed by collectors
  • Unable to open a bank account or cash checks
  • Rejected for insurance coverage
  • Sued in civil court
  • Rejected for a job
  • Cut-off from utilities
  • Subjected to a criminal investigation
  • Arrested


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Quote of the Day
"A good reputation is more valuable than money." - Syrus (Publilius Syrus)
Tip of the Day
If you receive pre-screened credit card offers in the mail, but don't shred them after you decide you don't want to accept the offer, identity thieves could retrieve the offers for their own use without your knowledge. Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) to opt out of receiving these pre-screened credit card offers. The three major credit bureaus use the same toll-free number to let consumers choose to not receive pre-screened credit offers.
Today's Story
"My purse was stolen in December 1990. In February 1991, I started getting notices of bounced checks. About a year later, I received information that someone using my identity had defaulted on a number of lease agreements and bought a car. In 1997, I learned that someone had been working under my Social Security number for a number of years. A man had been arrested and used my SSN on his arrest sheet. There's a hit in the FBI computers for my SSN with a different name and gender. I can't get credit because of this situation. I was denied a mortgage loan, employment, credit cards, and medical care for my children. I've even had auto insurance denied, medical insurance and tuition assistance denied." - From a consumer complaint to the FTC, January 2, 2001
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