Identity Theft on the Rise

By: Natalie Shepherd
By: Natalie Shepherd

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime across the United States and here in Michigan.

A report released earlier Wednesday finds that police are ill-equipped to handle the crime. Across the country, an identity is stolen every 79 seconds.

The report entitled "Policing Privacy," recommends stricter privacy laws for credit card companies and creditors. The Michigan senate recently passed a package of bills to fight ID theft. The House is now considering the legislation. It would strengthen privacy and also protect the victim.

It is estimated $12 billion are lost annually because of ID theft.

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ID Theft

  • 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.

Prevention Tips

  • 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.


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