What is Identity Theft

Julia M. Carlson |

Identity theft occurs when a criminal takes your personal information (such as your social security number, address, birth date, bank account number, credit card number, etc.) and uses it to steal money or obtain services under your name. With every advance in technology, it seems there are those who will quickly find a way to put it to use for their own unlawful gain. For example, some thieves access your information by hacking into personal or business computer systems or stealing laptops that contain personal data. Often, they use good old-fashioned techniques like stealing your purse or wallet. Copies of bank or credit card statements, bills or other personal papers can be stolen out of your home or your trash. Some thieves simply talk people into giving them information by posing as someone who would have a right to know it or claiming they need you to verify your account information. Social media is also a way for these criminals to learn about you.  

Once thieves have this information, they can wreak havoc with your good financial name. They can run up charges on your credit card, changing the billing address so it will be awhile before you realize what has happened. They can open new accounts in your name, including bank, phone and utility accounts; write counterfeit checks; drain your bank account; pay taxes or file for bankruptcy in your name; or get official ID issued in your name. It has even been known to happen that an identity thief will give the victim’s name if they get arrested, and when they don’t show up for court, the police come after you! In addition to the expense of resolving the problem, identity theft victims can also be harassed by collections agents, have their utilities cut off, or have trouble obtaining loans, credit or new bank accounts. They may also be unable to access their existing bank accounts or use their existing credit cards. The bottom line is identity theft can have a serious negative impact on the victim so you need to be informed and learn ways to protect yourself. Stay tuned as I will be sharing strategies of how to do this in the coming weeks.

Information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation.

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