Identity theft is not solely a high tech crime committed on the Internet. It can be as simple as someone stealing your mail or discarded credit card receipt.
Army First Sgt. Finn Carlton knows the horrors of ID theft. A suspect took him for more than $20,000, opening up a line of credit and even obtaining a driver's license.
Carlton is trying to reassemble his life. He immediately called the police, all three major credit bureaus, and the Federal Trade Commission.
The FBI compiles names of victims like Carlton and tries to determine common threads among criminals committing these crimes.
Experts say consumers must protect their vital information at all times and use common sense when dealing with any important bank statements or receipts.
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- Identity theft is a crime in which the imposter obtains key pieces of information such as Social Security and driver's license numbers to obtain credit, merchandise and services in the name of the victim.
- The victim is left with a ruined credit history and the time-consuming and complicated task of regaining financial health.
- It is a dual crime, committed against an individual whose name and good credit history was ruined and against businesses who lost cash and merchandise.
- Carefully destroy papers you don't need, especially those with sensitive or identifying information. Buy and use a good, cross-cut paper shredder.
- Guard your Social Security Number. Don't carry your social security card with you. That also includes any cards or badges that may include this number on it. Resist giving it out unless necessary. Don't put SSN on checks.
- Check all three of your credit reports once a year. This is one of the best ways to find out if someone is using your information without your knowledge. In most cases it will cost about $8 for each report unless you are a victim of financial crime or turned down for a job or credit due to your credit report.
TransUnion: 800-888-4213 (fraud div.- 800-680-7289)
Experian: 888-EXPERIAN (fraud div.- 888-397-3742)
Equifax: 800- 685-1111 (fraud div.- 800-525-6285)
- Block your name from marketing lists- 888-5OPTOUT. This is cut down on the number of pre-approved credit card offers you receive.
- Guard your personal information. Carry as little as possible in your wallet. Get credit cards with your picture on them. Be alert to shoulder surfers listening for information. Cancel any credit cards you no longer use. That means contacting the company, not just cutting up the card. Keep confidential information in a locked area.
- Be suspicious of telephone solicitors. Never give out information unless you have initiated the call. You should never need to give a social security number to a sales clerk.
- Watch what happens to your credit card when you give it to a clerk. The instances of double skimming are on the rise. Double skimming occurs when the clerk not only charges you for your purchase but also runs your card through a computer scanner. Later this information is downloaded on a counterfeit card and used by imposters.
- Demand that the businesses you frequent take good care of your information and find out how they protect you from ID theft.
Source: www.idtheftcenter.org (Identity Theft Resource Center Web site) contributed to this report.