It may or may not surprise you to find out that identity theft cases are in fact not new at all, they are basically just evolving as criminals and the World they live in simply become more digital in some ways making identity theft easier and in other ways making it more difficult. Recently a whole new industry has sprung up around Identity theft insurance and companies like LifeLock and others are doing exceptionally well while providing varying amounts of real protection and value for the people whose identities are entrusted to them. Many such identity theft plans are simply a way for the companies to collect monthly premiums from people for a promise to do simple things like:
- • Put people on the Do Not Call registry.
- • Monitor your credit with the main credit reporting agencies.
- • Make efforts to reduce people’s junk mail. A lot of identity theft occurs through other people completing credit card offers on a victim’s behalf.
- • And mostly just agree to help them contact creditors and others in the event their identity is actually stolen.
There is definitely value in these identity theft services, but it really is important to understand that in most cases, the companies are only going to help you in the event that a criminal assumes your identity so you may be better off passing on the premiums and just paying someone for assistance if it actually happens to you. Either way, identity theft remains a real problem from people forging checks to stealing credit card and social security numbers over the Internet there are many ways you can become a victim. We thought we would illustrate some of those ways by listing 10 of the most notorious cases of identity theft.
- Catch Me if You Can – This movie which starred Leonardo Di Caprio is about Frank Abagnale, a true-to-life identity thief. He issued $4 million of bad checks, and more astonishingly, he posed as a pilot, doctor, professor, and an assistant attorney general. Although he was caught in the end, this story never fails to catch people’s attention. Of course he has turned his talents into a consulting company and now tries to help businesses avoid all kinds of identity fraud.
- Hacker Albert Gonzalez of Miami is serving 25 years in prison from pulling off the largest ID theft heist currently on record. Gonzalez (aka “Soupnazi”) stole an eye popping 135 million credit and debit card numbers from top retail chains like T.J. Maxx, Barnes & Noble, Boston Market, and the convenience store giant 7-Eleven. He basically pulled this off while he was a retired cyberthief working for the Secret Service. He planted a “sniffer” computer program on the networks of large payment processing companies using his access obtained via the Secret Service.
- Todd Davis, the CEO of LifeLock (a company mentioned above) embarked on a bold advertising campaign aimed at showing his confidence in the company’s services. So he plastered his social security number on billboards, on the radio, and of course all over the Internet. Well it didn’t take long for people to steal his identity using the social (457-55-5462). I think it’s just important to point out that using a service like LifeLock to protect your identity is smart, but you don’t need to tempt fate by broadcasting your personally identifiable information like that.
- Eldrick T. Woods – Yes the real name of the famous pro golfer, Tiger Woods. Anthony Lemar Taylor was able to steal Tiger’s identity and even obtained a real California driver’s license in Tiger’s name. He proceeded to run up credit card bills, purchase goods, and apply for loans in Tiger’s good name. Since he used Eldrick and not “Tiger” and the fact that he had both a valid California driver’s license and federal social security card he was able to pull of this scam. Mr. Taylor is now serving a 200 year prison sentence.
- Stealing from Himself – sounds bizarre but this is what Li Ming just did. Buried in debt, he faked his own death to escape payment (including an obituary in the local paper). Nine months after, he applied for new license, which eventually lead to his downfall and he was arrested for impersonating Ming Li along with several other charges.
These are far from isolated cases, but they are one’s that we hear a lot about on the Internet and various publications. I thought it was interesting to bring them together into one article to stress that identity theft can happen to just about anyone whether you are famous or just an innocent person buying a slurpee at your local 7-Eleven. Identity theft of all kinds is on the rise and becoming a problem that more people need to be aware of and in general, take it a lot more seriously. Here is how the types of identity theft are broken down by percentage of thefts:
- • 26% – Credit Card Fraud
- • 18% – Utilities Fraud
- • 17% – Bank Fraud
- • 12% – Employment Fraud
- • 9% – Government Fraud
- • 5% – Loan Fraud
- • 13% – Other Types of Fraud
One of the bigger types of theft as you can see is utilities fraud (18% of all ID thefts). That is one that most people may not even think about. Essentially, this results from people using a child’s clean credit to get their power, water, gas, cable, or phone services turned back on. They are desperate for these services and will go to any lengths sometimes to make sure they get them (including ID theft).
Most likely in a future article, I’ll address tips to keep your identity safe but for now the simplest rule that can be provided is to just protect your personally identifiable information to the greatest extent possible and watch your credit reports closely. Catching the problem early on is critical to minimizing the impact that ID theft can have on your life. Stay alert!