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Identity Theft - Head Matters


2. Preventing Identity Theft

Identity theft often goes on without the consumer noticing. Within a month of being committed, half of the crimes remain unnoticed.  One in 10 stays hidden for two or more years. Identity thieves may change “your” address so you won’t ever receive the bills with the fraudulent charges on them. They will often pay the minimum balances on accounts they have opened, to avoid calling attention to the account and having it cut off. They may even use the identities of children or persons who are deceased making the crime  less likely to be noticed.

So, what do thieves do with your personal information, and how can you recognize that your identity has been stolen? Here are a few of their most common tricks.
  • Opening new accounts – Identity thieves frequently open new accounts in your name. They apply for new credit cards using your information, make charges, and leave the bills unpaid. It is also common for them to set up telephone or utility service in your name and not pay for it. Some victims have found that identity thieves applied for loans, apartments, and mortgages. Thieves have also been known to print counterfeit checks in a victim’s name. 
  • Access your existing accounts – Thieves also often access your existing accounts. They may take money from your bank accounts, make charges on your credit cards, and use your checks and credit to make down payments for cars, furniture, and other expensive items. They may even file for government benefits including unemployment insurance and tax refunds.
  • Repeated use – Unfortunately, thieves often use a stolen identity again and again. It is very common for victims to learn that thieves have opened and accessed numerous accounts, often over a long span of time. Sometimes, too, they may wait several months or years to use your stolen information, making it more difficult to track down the thief. 
Although preventing identity theft can be difficult, there’s a lot you can do to deter identity thieves. The Federal Trade Commission recommends taking the following steps to keep yourself and your personal information out of hands of others.
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