Identity theft is a real pain, and it is unfortunately very common, especially in the United States. Identity theft is all about pretending to be someone else in order to obtain credit or any other type of benefits in somebody else’s name. It can also be used to facilitate illegal immigration or terrorism.
I was a victim of identity theft, but with a twist. Normally it is your identity that gets hijacked, but the experience I had with identity theft had a different twist to it. I was involved in a rather serious car accident that ultimately had my husband looking online for lawyers for car accident victims. I had been whisked away in an ambulance at the scene of the accident. The driver of the other car fled before the police arrived. The driver was picked up several blocks from the accident. He had collapsed, probably because of his head injury, on a sidewalk and some passer by called the police. There was total confusion as to who the person really was, because all the identifications that he carried turned out to be stolen, and that included even the car. When the car’s real owner was tracked down, it turned out he had reported it stolen three weeks before that accident occurred. The guy was an “identity theft” poster child. He had been impersonating several different people, plus was driving a stolen car. It turned out that he was just a grifter, not a terrorist and boy was he in deep trouble. Meanwhile, my car accident lawyer dealt with the insurance companies and all the other twisted legal ramifications due to the extraordinary circumstances.
The Identity Theft Resource Center sub-divides identity theft into five categories : business/commercial to obtain credit, criminal when apprehended for a crime, financial to obtain credit, goods or services, identity cloning in daily life, and medical to obtain care or drugs.
Identity thieves have many techniques to obtain all the information they need to steal your identity. The first one, and also the simplest one, is to go through people rubbish, also called dumpster diving. We receive tons of mails everyday, especially offers from credit card companies, containing our first and last names, address, and a client number. Some other paperwork have our social security numbers on them or even our bank account number.
There is another way that people do not suspect at all, not that we suspect people dumpster diving in our rubbish… but when we sell a computer, very often we do not know how to sanitize it properly, and we think that deleting every type of information stored in the hard drive is enough. No, it’s not enough, and our personal data can be visible and in stranger’s hands. Of course, pickpocketing is also one of the most used techniques to steal identity.
My friend saw a huge charge on his credit card and after he called the bank they gave him a new card, but almost immediately that new card had hit its limit. He had not even used the card, but a fraudster had stolen his identity and that enabled him to access any of his accounts including the new credit card. The thief racked up charges playing online slots at a number of online casinos serving players in the US. He learned from the forensic work done by the bank that the thief had used an affiliate website to guide him to a number of different slots for US player at different casinos using the updated listings on the affiliate. A slots addicted scammer then lost over $100,000 in one night playing and losing online slots.
Sophisticated hackers have often used identity theft to steal stuff or more likely to purchase things like drugs, without revealing who they are. Technology has made it both harder and easier for these guys to do their thing. The internet is the main way thefts occur, but here’s one example of how the modern world has made some kinds of theft less likely. If someone suspects they’ve contracted a sexually transmitted disease, the typical test requires a visit to a doctor, which reveals more than one may be comfortable just to find out the truth. But there is no longer a need to steal an identity to get a test without revealing personal info. You can now buy kits to test yourself for stds at home and confidentially using a simple and affordable test you can purchase online or at the drug store. Granted this is not a panacea to the identity theft problem, but any progress in this arena is welcome!
Protecting ourselves against this type of fraud counts a few steps that are not rocket science. The first thing is to shred every type of document that contains any name, address or worst, social security numbers or bank account numbers. Also, nobody should give any personal information by phone, or even send personal information by mail. Last but not least, instead of sending checks on which anybody can find our account number and the corresponding routing number, it is better to pay bills on our bank’s website.
It is so frustrating when your identity get stolen… The amount of work you have to go through in order to get back on track is incredible. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. Plus, sometimes an extreme amount of money must be spent on specialists to put it back in order… What can be done? There are actually some services that help with this typ of protection and they will cover you with getting everything back in order if they fail for any reason… Some people swear by these services but the problem with them is that for them to be successful the just have to keep everything going, you know business as usual.