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Identity Theft: It’s What’s for Dinner

By   |  October 23, 2008

Just in case you’ve been living in a bubble, breaking news: identity theft is on the rise.  And it’s unavoidable and in our backyard: earlier this year, UCI graduate students were hit with an identity theft situation in which their personal information was garnered to usurp federal income tax refund checks.

Why my sudden interest?  Because I just became a victim myself: one week ago, someone stole my social security number and used it to obtain personal information and open several credit card accounts (complete with new balances!) across the Southland.  (Note to the jerk(s) who did this: you suck.)

What I found interesting in all of this (besides the fact that I can apparently still get new credit in this economy), is talking to other people about their identity theft experiences.  Talk to your friends and colleagues, and I think you’ll discover what I did: a shocking number of them have either been victims or know several people who have had personal information stolen.  When I went to the police station to file a report, another woman was there filling out the same paperwork and the officer that helped me had hers stolen three times.

Does anyone else see a problem with this?  While it seems that there are more safeguards in place once your information is stolen, there doesn’t seem to be enough done to prevent such crimes from happening in the first place.  Why must we use our social security number as an identifier for everything?  I am very careful to not divulge that information unless absolutely necessary (and no, routine insurance forms do not need your social security number), yet I was still victimized, and I have no idea how it happened.  When you ask others how they think it happened to them, the best they can usually come up with is paranoid theories (unscrupulous clerks, disgruntled employees, trash dump divers).

Why are these crimes increasingly becoming “commonplace” and seen as growing pains for advancing technology?  Although it’s certainly not at the forefront of the issues of this election, I did find past and present candidates’ take on this situation very interesting. I don’t think that this needs to be accepted or tolerated, and I think prevention is the key, but sometimes even safeguarding such information isn’t enough.  We need to come up with another means of identifying our citizens that frees us of the social security number ball-and-chain.  We need to outlaw companies from selling our personal information and limit employee access to sensitive information.  Employees that handle such information should be subjected to a thorough background check to ensure that they can be trusted.  And ultimately, we must make it more difficult to obtain “easy” credit.

In case this happens to you, I highly recommend this website: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/defend.html

So how about you?  Are you a victim?  Feel free to share your story!

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One Comment on “Identity Theft: It’s What’s for Dinner”  (RSS)

  1. Hi-
    I am working with a local television stations in Los Angeles on a story about identity theft. We are looking for i.d. theft victims who would be willing to talk about their experiences on camera. Would you be interested in sharing your story? Please contact me directly, velston [at] Levick [dot] com (www.levick.com)

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