Identity Theft Can Turn Your Life Upside Down
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The majority of us are busy with work, family and friends. In amongst the milieu of our daily lives, we toss out the items we don’t need any more or the things that annoy us the most like the constant strew of junk mail that bombards our mailboxes…but, do you realize that those activities could be setting you up to be a victim of identity theft?

Identity Theft…What is it?

According to the Identity Theft Recourse Center, “Identity theft is a crime in which an impostor obtains key pieces of personal identifying information (PII) such as Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, financial account numbers, and addresses and then uses them for their own personal gain. It can start with lost or stolen wallets, stolen mail, a company data breach, computer virus, “phishing” scams, or paper documents thrown out by you or a business.”

Is Your Identity Safe and Secure?

Do you know where your identity is? Are you careful about giving out your personal information such as your birth date, social security number, or your credit or debit card numbers? Are you an avid user of popular social networking sites?

Do you wad up your morning Starbucks™ receipt and pitch it the parking lot trash can as you walk into the office every morning? Do you throw away prescription pill bottles after you are finished with them? You realize your name and address are on them, right?

If you do…you are setting yourself up for identity theft. Criminals will use your identifying information for their own personal gain. If the right information ends up in their hands, they have the capability to create fake driver’s licenses or ID cards in your name and wreak havoc with your life…and you might not find out about it until decades later.

Your Online Presence and the Danger of Identity Theft

In addition to the above mentioned elements of personal identifying information, the list can also include any information that you post about yourself on the Internet. If you use Facebook™, MySpace™ or Twitter™ and you put information about events in your or members of your family’s lives, you put yourself in jeopardy and increase your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.

Some Identity Theft Statistics from the Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission reported in 2012 that their Consumer Sentinel Network received over 360,000 consumer complaints between January and December 2012 (Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, page 7) that were related to identity theft. Of those that reported to the CSN how much money they spent in their recovery efforts, the overall average cost to consumers for the 2012 year relating to identity theft was approximately $423.00 per person.

Don’t Think it Can Happen to You? Guess Again…

…it happened to me. I was arrested for crimes that were committed in my name in a different state than the one that I reside in. At the time of the arrest, I had no idea what was going on. I didn’t understand the charges that I was being arrested for and when I was fingerprinted, my prints did not match any of the prints in AFIS, which is the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, but they booked me anyway. The arresting officer’s parting words to me as he walked out the back door of the jail were “I don’t know what is going on, but I’m going to let the judges figure it out.” It happened to me!! It can happen to any one of you if you don’t take the steps necessary to protect your identity.


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