Usually “identity theft” means that someone is using your name, Social Security number, or credit card information without your permission. It could also mean that they are using your driver license or medical records. There was a recent case where a man struggled for 35 years because someone he knew had taken his personal information. This person moved to another city, got a job, got sick and created medical records and doctor bills, and did not bother to pay his taxes – all in this man’s name! The victim tried to get help , but it took THIRTY FIVE years before anyone listened to him, can you imagine?
According to the Federal Trade Commission the number of Americans who fall victim to identity theft each year is 9 million and growing! I have been a victim three times, twice someone began using my credit card while I was out of the country, and once I didn’t even know about until I received a notice from the government that the person had been caught. Fortunately, I was able to take care of my issues quickly and easily. The first time I was on a cruise for 7 days and the bank noticed the strange activity and called my home; the second time I was in Europe, when I got home and started working on my expense reports, I noticed purchases that were definitely not mine. In both cases the cards were canceled immediately and new cards were issued. What was scary is how easy it was for someone to be me, and purchase items, gamble in online casinos etc.
Chances are that you, a close friend, or a relative have been victimized in the past. Due to the state of the economy, the instances of identity theft are actually on the rise. Crimes utilizing your identity range from using your name to acquire housing or purchase an iPhone and create a new AT&T account , to getting a new drivers license and clean driving record. Identity Theft is not always about your credit card (not at first anyway), this is a fairly common misconception. Identity theft more commonly occurs because:
- The thief has lost their own drivers license (suspension, DUI, too many traffic violations) and uses yours to start over in another state
- The thief is unable to get an apartment because they have a bad rental history
- The thief cannot get a new cell phone plan with their bad credit, so they use your name and information instead
Once the identity thief is comfortable using your information, it’s no stretch for them to really dig in and get a job, open credit accounts, get medical care, and basically create a shadow life to the one you are living. Scary isn’t it? And what’s even more scary is that this could very well be someone that is known to you or to your friends or to your relatives. Someone who got close enough to get just enough of your information to be dangerous.
Identity theft is not a joke and it’s not some crime that companies make up to get you to buy their ID protection product. What’s even scarier is the impact identity theft can have on your life:
- You could lose out on a new job
- Your child may not be able to get a loan for college
- Your cars could be repossessed or you may be unable to purchase a car
- You could be arrested and jailed because of someone else’s mishandling of your identity
Have any identity theft horror stories? Feel free to share.