Identity theft is a serious crime. People whose identities have been stolen can spend months or years and thousands of dollars cleaning up the mess the thieves have made of a good name and credit record. In the meantime, victims of identity theft may lose job opportunities, be refused loans for education, housing, or cars, and even get arrested for crimes they didn't commit. Humiliation, anger, and frustration are among the feelings victims experience as they navigate the process of rescuing their identity. (FTC For the Consumer).
So how does one's identity get stolen? According to the United States Federal Trade Commission:
How identity thieves get your personal information:
They get information from businesses or other institutions by:
-stealing records or information while they're on the job
-bribing an employee who has access to these records
-hacking these records
-conning information out of employees
-They may steal your mail, including bank and credit card statements, credit card offers, new -checks, and tax information.
-They may rummage through your trash, the trash of businesses, or public trash dumps in a practice known as "dumpster diving."
-They may get your credit reports by abusing their employer's authorized access to them, or by posing as a landlord, employer, or someone else who may have a legal right to access your report.
-They may steal your credit or debit card numbers by capturing the information in a data storage device in a practice known as "skimming." They may swipe your card for an actual purchase, or attach the device to an ATM machine where you may enter or swipe your card.
-They may steal your wallet or purse.
-They may complete a "change of address form" to divert your mail to another location.
-They may steal personal information they find in your home.
-They may steal personal information from you through email or phone by posing as legitimate companies and claiming that you have a problem with your account. This practice is known as "phishing" online, or pretexting by phone.
-How identity thieves use your personal information:
-They may call your credit card issuer to change the billing address on your credit card account. -The imposter then runs up charges on your account. Because your bills are being sent to a different address, it may be some time before you realize there's a problem.
-They may open new credit card accounts in your name. When they use the credit cards and don't pay the bills, the delinquent accounts are reported on your credit report.
-They may establish phone or wireless service in your name.
-They may open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on that account.
-They may counterfeit checks or credit or debit cards, or authorize electronic transfers in your name, and drain your bank account.
-They may file for bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying debts they've incurred under your name, or to avoid eviction.
-They may buy a car by taking out an auto loan in your name.
-They may get identification such as a driver's license issued with their picture, in your name.
-They may get a job or file fraudulent tax returns in your name.
-They may give your name to the police during an arrest. If they don't show up for their court date, a warrant for arrest is issued in your name.
Though the thought of someone using your SSS number or license number to steal your identity sounds farfetched for Filipinos now, there are other ways filipinos can be victimized by these thieves. In the Philippines, it has recently been discovered that there are unscrupulous individuals who have learned the art of stealing credit card info using a gadget with a magnetic strip reader. Although i'm not sure how many people have been victimized here in the Philippines, there have been reports on TV about one pinoy being victimized on E-Bay, no less. So if ever you're paying your bill using your credit card, make sure that your credit card is visible to you at all times!
We've seen movies where identities are stolen and all hell breaks loose for the protagonists. Though i havent heard of anyone doing a Harrison Ford just yet, but hey, who knows what tomorrow might bring, right?
So now, we've discussed credit card info theft as part of the bigger identity theft and the case of leslie carlos who is also a victim of "identity theft". In part 3, we'll get to know what experts have to say about identity theft.