Identity Theft 101


By BY ROBERT E. HOLTFRETER, PH.D., EDUCATOR ASSOCIATE MEMBER

Taking Back the ID 

This new column will critically analyze identity theft issues to keep readers current about this growing problem that has become a plague to consumers and businesses worldwide. 

 
For about eight days last year, my copy of USA Today wasn't being delivered through the mail. The newspaper told me that I had made a change of address, which I hadn't. After the customer service rep verified my identity, she told me that she would extend the term of my subscription to account for the days missed and delivery would resume. 

 
Evidently the fraudster stole the newspaper from my mailbox and used my name and address to send my subscription his way. This is a rather elementary example of identity theft (and mail fraud, which is a felony). I plan to report this incident to the U.S. Postal Service and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). 

 
Identity theft, as defined by the FTC, "occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, to commit fraud or other crimes."1 

 
In this first column, we'll lay a foundation with identity theft complaint data recently published by the FTC as part of its 2007 "Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft Complaint Data" report. The data in the report was provided by the Consumer Sentinel, which is a complaint database developed and maintained by the FTC since 1997.

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