Identity theft causes problems beyond the crime |

Identity theft causes problems beyond the crime

Joe Hoy

In the movie “Godfather III” there is a scene where Michael Corleone is chastising his nephew for making a rash decision. During that scene the don looks at his protege and says, “You are who you are, nothing can change that.” What a true statement. We are the sum of all our experiences: good and bad, success or failure. But when a faceless someone steals our identity, it is a direct insult to us and our reputation as a human being.What exactly is identity theft? It involves obtaining pieces of someone’s identity – a name, address, birth date, social security number or a mother’s maiden name – in order to impersonate them. The information enables the thieves to commit numerous forms of fraud, which may include taking over a victim’s bank accounts, opening new accounts in a victim’s name, purchasing a car, applying for loans, receiving credit card and social security benefits, renting apartments and establishing utility or phone services. Despite your best efforts in managing the flow of your personal information, no one is immune to identity theft. Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to gain access to your data. Theft of wallets, purses and mail can provide thieves a wealth of information that can be even more valuable than cash. They rummage through residential garbage cans and business trash, searching for personal data in a practice known as Dumpster diving. Through e-mail and Internet scams, identity thieves can collect an abundance of information they use to impersonate you and literally destroy your good name and credit ratings. Proving you’re a victimMost people rightfully associate identity theft with serious financial consequences for the victim. Draining savings accounts, cashing in on insurance policies and wiping out mutual funds are just a brief list of problems victims face. If credit cards are involved, the victims are impacted by the anxiety experienced in trying to straighten out personal credit history.Unlike victims of other crimes who generally are treated with respect and sympathy, identity-theft victims often find themselves having to prove they’re really victims and not deadbeats trying to get out of paying bad debts. If you believe you are a target of identity theft, take action immediately and keep a detailed record of your correspondence. Other steps people should take in the wake of an identity depend on how their identity has been misused. Actions appropriate in almost every case are: • Contact the fraud department of each of the major credit branches. Tell them you are a victim and request a fraud alert be placed in your file. This can help prevent a thief from opening any additional accounts in your name. Fraud alerts and victim statements do expire so you will need to renew them on a regular basis. • Close all accounts that you know or believe have been tampered with or were opened fraudulently. This would include credit card accounts, ATM cards and checking accounts. Use new pin numbers and passwords only familiar to you. Don’t use information such as your mother’s maiden name, date of birth, or the last four digits of your social security number. These are easily available to identity thieves. • File a police report with your local law enforcement agency or the agency where the identity theft took place. Many victims think to report to the credit reporting bureaus first, then law enforcement second, if at all. Get a copy of the police report. Very often, the bank, credit card company or others assisting you need proof of the crime in order to erase the debts incurred by the thief. If you cannot get a copy of the report, at least get the report number. Be persistent, provide documentation and be a motivating face. If you are told identity theft is not a crime under your state law, ask to file a miscellaneous incident report instead. ‘You are who you are’For more information concerning identity theft contact your bank or local consumer protection agency. You can also find out if there have been any identity thieves passing bad checks in your name by calling SCAN at 1-800-262-7771. To notify local retailers not to accept your checks you can call Tele Check at 1-800-710-9898 or 1-800-437-5120, and to get more information on identity theft you can visit Be sure to follow up all calls in writing and to send your letters by certified mail with a return of service receipt. Make a copy of all sent items for your personal file. Identify theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States and directly or indirectly effects millions of individuals. Everyone must be diligent in protecting who they are. Remember, “You are who you are, and nothing can change that.”Vail, Colorado

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