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Not many people have heard of identity theft. Some may not know what it is exactly nor how dangerous it can be. Is this just something from CSI or could this be real? The basic answer is that it’s a crime where someone wrongfully tries to use another person’s information in a way that would be deceptive. Most people do this to increase their finances. Some things that can be taken are for example, Social Security, bank account information, credit card numbers, and telephone numbers. There are so many small things that people just can’t seem to be able to keep up with now a days. It can be extremely dangerous if any of this information falls into the wrong persons lap. You could be facing financial loss, criminal responsibility, or financial loss due to restoring your name and reputation.
Identity Theft wasn’t always a federal offense. USDOJ (United States Department of Justice) tells us about one specific case. “In one notorious case of identity theft, the criminal, a convicted felon, not only incurred more than $100,000 of credit card debt, obtained a federal home loan, and bought homes, motorcycles, and handguns in the victim's name, but called his victim to taunt him — saying that he could continue to pose as the victim for as long as he wanted because identity theft was not a federal crime at that time — before filing for bankruptcy, also in the victim's name. While the victim and his wife spent more than four years and more than $15,000 of their own money to restore their credit and reputation, the criminal served a brief sentence for making a false statement to procure a firearm, but made no restitution to his victim for any of the harm he had caused.” This case was the final action in making Identity Theft a crime in 1998.
I know that you may be thinking, obviously this is a huge thing, but it will never happen to me. It’s extremely easy for people to get your information. So though you might think you are mostly careful and you keep all important information locked away in the safety of your own home. There are many ways for almost anyone to get a hold of your information and data without having to even open your door. For example, there is something called “shoulder surfing.” This is where someone watches you from a surrounding place. You could be punching in credit card information, or telephone numbers. Another thing people do is listen in on conversations where you could be giving any information over to sales people or family. Another example, is called “dumpster diving” where people search dumpsters around your home and work area to find all your files or papers. They look for things such as checks, credit cards, or bank statements, basically anything that will help them become you. You may be familiar with spam. Many people can send an email and as soon as you open the message they have full control of your computer. They can grab all the information they are in need of.
In November, congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act which is well said from the website: “knowingly transfer[ring] or us[ing], without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law.” If identity theft is committed the punishment is a maximum of 15 years of imprisonment, a fine, and criminal forfeiture. Yet depending on the state or the offense you can get as high as 30 years of imprisonment, fines, and criminal forfeiture.
You may feel extremely violated. Or you have no room left to move because your not sure how to go about this whole situation. Well the USDOJ website puts it best to use in one word, “SCAM. S: Be stingy about giving out personal information to anyone unless you have a reason to trust them, regardless of where you are even if at home. C: Check your financial information regularly, and look for what should be there and what shouldn’t. A: Ask periodically for a copy of your credit report. M: Maintain careful records of your banking and financial accounts.
Did you know that Florida ranks number one for identity theft according to FTCCSD (Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel database.) Miami ranks the highest for identity theft with 324.1 complaints per 100,000 people. Next in line is Tampa with 156.2 complaints per 100,000 people. Then comes Orlando with 147.1 complaints per 100,000 people. Many other Florida cities ranked in the top 50 such as Lakeland, Tallahassee, Ocala, Vero Beach, and Fort Myers. WIth Florida in first, Arizona, California, Georgia, and Texas follow to complete the top 5 for Identity Theft.
To help you understand a little further here is an example of some crazy stupid theft. A 14-year Navy veteran named Harrun Majeed drove to Publix to get his son a special birthday cake. When he arrived back at his house he noticed that he must have dropped his credit card at some point on his shopping trip. Immediately, he called the company and asked them to cancel the card. The bank told Majeed that the card had already been used in the amount of time that he had lost it to order two pizzas with a total of $40. Majeed then called the police to inform them of the incident. The police drove down to the restaurant where the pizzas were purchased. They found the culprit awaiting his two pizzas. The culprit was Dr. Richard Ludwig, a dentist who just so happened to be in this specific town for his son’s baseball game. His net worth was 3-4 million and worse yet he even had $250 cash in his wallet at the time of arrest. Yet to me the craziest part was he sgned the credit card slip with his own name. He was charged with three felonies and was in jail for up to 15 years or more. All this because he “stole” $40 from a man when he was a millionaire.
Thats just one of the many stories out there. The government is working everyday to look for these people that have committed these types of crimes. Their jobs are to search people, data, and bank accounts; checking for fraud or any imbalances. Now that it’s understood that identity theft is a major problem especially here in Florida let’s, all take whatever precautions necessary to prevent these thefts.
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