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The Many Faces of Identity Thieves

Sep 5, 2008
Identity theft is a serious crime. Estimates vary, but up to 15 million people may have been victimized by identity thieves in America last year. And the demographics of this crime are startling: victims usually know or have a personal relationship with the very people who steal their identity. It's a sad fact that identity thieves are likely to be our friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members. Even young children are targets - and their parents are the usual perpetrators.

Once identity thieves have your personal information, they're most likely to use it to open new credit card accounts. Considering the potential for financial ruin, that's a scary proposition indeed. Worse, they can also pretend to be you while they hijack the accounts you already have. Once your identity has been compromised, it can take thousands of hours and a lot of money to repair the damage.

Who would do such a thing to a friend or loved one, and why? Sometimes the thieves are exes who want to control or terrorize their victim for personal reasons. Other times, identity thieves pretend to be family members with good credit in order to get loans or obtain cell phone contracts. One father even pretended to be his 22 month old son in order to file for bankruptcy. He wanted to enjoy the benefits of bankrupt status (ie, no more calls from debtors) without tainting his own credit. What a legacy to pass on to a child!

Co-workers also have the opportunity to steal our identities. Like more intimate acquaintances, their motivations might include addiction, necessity, or plain old greed. Be sure to keep your personal information under lock and key and never leave your purse lying around where a nosy thief can rifle through it. Also, never give out your personal information over the phone where others might be listening. Password protect your computer and lock it whenever you leave your desk.

Dealing with identity theft, especially when it's been carried out by someone we know, can take a heavy toll on us both financially and emotionally. Luckily, there are steps you can take to protect your identity.

* Don't carry your Social Security card with you every day

* Don't have your Social Security number printed on checks or your driver's license

* Don't say your Social Security number out loud when listeners are nearby

* Never give someone access to your credit or debit cards

* Always keep your PINs and passwords a closely-guarded secret

It's nice to help out friends and family, but make sure that you're not funding an unauthorized shopping spree! Check your credit report at least once a year and dispute items that don't belong there. If you see a large number of accounts that you didn't apply for, get in touch with your credit card company and credit bureau right away. You might be unpleasantly surprised by the purchases that have been made in your name, without your permission.
About the Author
This article is courtesy of CreditorWeb.com, where you can compare business credit card offers and apply for credit cards online.
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