Identity Theft/Fraud Information
Identity theft and credit fraud are now America’s fastest growing fraud crimes. According to some estimates, Americans lose a whopping $2 to $3 billion each year to these illegal activities. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim of this information invasion crime.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity thieves steal bits of your personal information such as your Social Security number, birth date, or credit card numbers and use them to open credit accounts or get a job in your name without your knowledge. Your information may be stolen and used by the thief or and sold on the street to a person who will use it to open fraudulent accounts. It could also be sold to a person who entered the U.S. illegally and who assumes your credit identity to open accounts and apply for employment. In some cases, parents with bad credit use their child’s Social Security number to apply for jobs or to obtain new credit. The common factor in most identity theft cases is that the criminals rely on victims not discovering their illegal activities for months or, in some cases, years.
- They go through your garbage and pull out old receipts, bank statements, tax forms, or credit card solicitations. This practice is commonly called “dumpster diving.”
- They steal your mail.
- They hack your computer or plant a virus in it to get passwords and account information.
- They steal purses and wallets for credit card numbers and identification.
- They purchase your stolen information from someone else.
- Have your bank or credit card issuer redirect statements to their address. This buys them more time to charge up the account and prevents you from finding out about it quickly.
- Acquire new credit accounts or loans in your name, then never make a single payment on them, leaving you to worry about the bad marks on your credit reports.
- Open a new bank account in your name and write bad (NSF- Non Sufficient Funds) checks.
- Make counterfeit checks or debit cards and use them to empty your bank account.
- Open credit accounts and purchase a car or a home using your credit information. This may make it difficult for you to make large purchases in the future because your debt-to-income ratio appears too high.
- Get a job and file tax returns using your name and Social Security number. This may make it difficult for you to file taxes and it may appear to the IRS that you have income you are failing to report.