Identity Theft

Identity theft is becoming more and more common every year, as fraudsters are coming up with newer and easier ways to steal a person’s information and identity. In fact, according to the Department of Justice, in 2014 alone, 1 in every 7 people in the U.S over the age of 16 was a victim of identity theft. This means that over 17 million people in the US had their personal information stolen in just one year. Let us look into more details of this particular crime – what exactly it is, how it affects the victim and what can be done to prevent it.

What exactly is identity theft?

Identity theft is the fraudulent and deliberate practice of stealing and using someone else’s personal information and identity in order to gain financial advantage. It includes bank frauds like taking over existing accounts or opening new ones, renting or buying services, goods and properties, file fake tax returns, tax rebate frauds, telecommunication fraud, benefit fraud and so on.

The most common type of identity theft is credit card fraud, where the thieves or fraudsters illegally gain access to your credits and use it to their own benefits. But at the same time, it is also the most easily resolvable as most credit card issuers have zero-liability policies.

It should be noted that while identity theft is a serious crime, its victims are rarely physically assaulted. However, this does not make them any less of a crime victim.

Ways to prevent identity theft

Here are some effective ways to prevent your personal information from being stolen.

  • Always keep your Social Security card in a secure place; it is a master source to all personal data. Never carry it around with you.
  • Always use strong separate passwords for online accounts and banking details; something that not many people can know.
  • Do not upload too much personal information on social media sites like Facebook, and do not open emails if you do not know the sender.
  • Make sure to have strong passwords for your mobile phone. If lost or stolen, your phone can easily provide information required to steal your identity.

The Margot Sommerville case

Back in 2007, California grandmother, Margot Sommerville was under police suspicion for forging checks and cashing them in several banks. But it turns out that she was a victim of identity theft when she lost her wallet in a trolley two years prior.

The real thief, Andrea Harris-Frazier was eventually caught by the police. Sommerville lost a total of $20,000 to the identity thief and spent as much as $60,000 to prove that she was innocent.