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Identity theft. Those two words can strike fear in the hearts of card holders everywhere. It seems like you can't trust anyone these days. Even friends and co-workers can access your information and open a line of credit in your name. Worse, businesses that drop the ball on their security measures have been breached by hackers to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Victims of identity theft usually do no wrong, but suffer the consequences anyway.
Here are three of the highest-profile identity theft schemes from the past year.
Jocelyn Kirsch and Edward Anderton were young, nice-looking, and had bright futures ahead of them. But they chose to use their powers for evil when they started taking the identities of friends and neighbors to pay for trips to the Eiffel Tower and other exotic locales. These college-aged fraudsters used their ill-gotten funds to finance a $3,000 a month luxury apartment and other high-dollar purchases. They were arrested in December when they went to retrieve a parcel of expensive lingerie that had been ordered in a neighbor's name. Now the two are headed to court to enter guilty pleas. The moral of this story? If you steal identities, you will get caught. If you steal identities from people you see every day, you will get caught fast.
The Hannaford Breach
This incident was a costly lesson in security measures, and why stores should be ever-vigilant. Hackers installed Trojan software and packet sniffers on computers at 300 of Hannaford's locations. Thousand of shoppers were potentially affected by this breach. Hannaford issued a warning to customers who used credit or debit cards in their stores between December of 2007 and March of 2008. Card numbers and expiration dates were stolen, and the total damage from the incident hasn't yet been totaled. What can we learn from Hannaford? Keep your security up to date. If you have to cut costs somewhere, don't sacrifice your customers' safety to do so.
No Rest in the Southwest
Arizona had the dubious distinction of being the very worst place in America for identity theft. The rampant fraud affected almost 300,000 residents last year. The financial damages totaled $147 million. Why did this happen? An investigation has been opened to answer that question. Called 'Identity Theft 911', this study wants to know why 25% of Arizona residents have fallen prey to identity theft in the past six years. Some possible reasons include lack of government action, the increasing market for methamphetamines, and illegal or fraudulent employment.
In many cases, identity theft victims haven't done anything wrong, except place their trust in people who abuse or neglect it. Do your part to protect your identity by enrolling in a credit monitoring service. Use online to keep real-time tabs on purchases made with your accounts. If you notice anything odd, contact your credit card company immediately. Many of them have measures in place to keep identity theft damage to a minimum.