Keeping Your Soul Safe: How to Prevent Identity Theft

Today, identity theft is one of the growing fears in the financial world. One day you wake up, and discover that your life is in ruins – your credit, your name, your finances. You can’t get a house loan, you can’t get a job, you can’t file your taxes. What do you do in this situation? What do you do to prevent this?

Facts and Statistics:

-Up to 700,000 people in the United States may be victimized by identity bandits each year, according to the Justice Dept (during press release 2002 FTC Study)

-Over 500,000,000 fraudulent checks are written each year

-The Secret Service estimates that in 1997, consumers lost more than $745 million due to identity theft

-A recent report on identity theft warned that there is likely to be “mass victimization” of consumers within the next several years.

-Every 79 seconds, a thief steals someone’s identity, opens accounts in the victim’s name, and goes on a buying spree. (, 1/24/01)

– Florida is the number 4 top state for identity theft (CA, NY, TX, FL, IL) in number of victims.

-Types of Identity Theft:

— Financial Fraud

— Debit & ATM fraud

— Checking account fraud

— Savings account fraud

— Store credit account fraud

— Loan account fraud

— Mortgage account fraud

— Identity Cloning (uses your credit rating to live a separate life

— Other crimes

— Drug trafficking

— Smuggling

— Illegal entry into other countrie

— Terrorism

— Money laundering

— Computer crimes

— Shoplifting

— Burglary

How your ID gets stolen:

– Credit cards: Every time you use your credit card, in person, on the phone, or on the Internet, there is a risk that an unscrupulous person may make off with your card details. Locations where staff turnover is high, such as restaurants, bars, and telemarketing companies, are especially high risk. Some thieves sell servers a small ‘skimmer’ that attaches to the inside of a jacket or coat, and will read a credit card when swiped. The server can then sell this ‘skimmer’ for $2000 after he’s swiped 20 cards.

– Don’t Trash It: Unshredded bank statements, credit card solicitations, account statements and other discarded mail is a target.

– Beware of the Workplace: Many times fellow employees steal sensitive information from unsecured personnel files, desks, or trash cans.

– Help Desk Impersonators: Sometimes an innocent call from your phone company, bank, insurance company or broker can be a cover for ID theft. Beware of anyone who needs to verify your address or SSN by YOU supplying the information.

– Check alteration: A recent case involved a man going to each ‘flagged’ mailbox and taking out checks being mailed to GTE. He changed the Payee to G.T. Edwards, opened an account with a fake ID, and cashed the checks. IRS can easily be changed to ‘MRS. XXXX’

– Fraudulent Check Printing: Whether by making color copies of an existing check and altering it or printing fake checks on purchased or stolen check stock, this crime is rising rapidly. There is check-printing software available, and many businesses and individuals now print their own checks.

– Checks Stolen: There are several ways a thief can obtain what he needs to create his own checks with your information:

— Stealing bank statements with cancelled checks from your home or mailbox

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