Identity Theft: Pardon Me Maam, But You Don't Look Like A Roger

Several years ago I worked with an attorney who had received a notice that her credit card limit had been exceeded and that she needed to pay more than $500 to bring the card under the limit. She was shocked. She never carried a balance on any of her credit cards and paid all of her bills promptly. I told her to check her purse to see if the card was missing. As it turned out, not only was her card missing but also her driver's license, debit card and other valuable information and documents. She was, at that time, in the process of learning what it is like to have her identity stolen.

The weeks following her discovery brought more distressing news. The thief who had stolen her information had obtained other credit cards using her name and social security number and had changed her bank account PIN. The thief had taken a substantial amount of money out of her bank account causing her to bounce checks and other financial hardships. She discovered that the process of straightening out identity theft is not an easy one and can take literally years to fix. I have even heard some people say you can never fully recover from this type of theft.

The good news (to the extent there was any good news) is that the thief was caught almost six months after the theft at a Wal-Mart located in southeast Georgia. The thief was trying to use her debit card to access her bank account. Given the hardship created by the process of regaining her identity this was only minor consolation.

Prevent Identity Theft
For some tips on preventing identity theft refer to the following website: Federal Trade CommissionThe website offers practical ideas for protect yourself from the situation faced by my attorney friend. Here is a related article dealing with identity theft.

What Is Credit Card Fraud
Identity theft and credit card fraud seem to go hand in hand these days. It is often easier for a thief to obtain personal information and use it to apply for credit cards than to steal cash or checks out of a persons wallet or purse. More lucrative too. Here is a brief explanation of credit card fraud:
1) when someone fraudulently obtains, takes, signs, uses, sells, buys, or forges someone else's credit card information;
2) when someone uses a credit card with the knowledge that it is revoked or expired or that the account lacks enough money to pay for the items charged. This type of fraud is committed by the person who actually owns the card; or
3) when someone sells goods or services to someone else with knowledge that the credit card being used was illegally obtained or is being used without authorization.

My friend was certainly a victim of credit card fraud. But she would be the first to tell you that reversing some credit card charges was only a minor inconvenience compared to the process of having to restore her identity.
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