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Identity Theft a Major Concern this New Year

By Faye Mergel
Published: Monday, January 4th, 2010

This year, a Salina, KS woman became victim to identity theft after someone fraudulently opened an account under her name, causing her to run up almost $6,000 in card debts. She discovered about it when she pulled out her credit report to apply for a loan. Amanda Kirkbride is now working with authorities to solve the crime.

Identity Theft a Major Concern this New YearWhile Amanda’s case is quite devastating, ID theft no longer seems to be an unusual crime during holiday seasons, with the number of its victims tending to increase alongside with consumer activities, making the crime one of the major concerns for both consumers and authorities this New Year.

Also this week, Eastern Washington University’s database was breached, about 130,000 current or former students in great danger for the crime. The security breach allowed the hacker access to their names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and other personal identifying information.

Those two cases of actual and potential identity theft illustrate how the crime is becoming a greater concern in the United States. Experts noted that it has become the fastest growing crime in the country over the recent years, with 10 million Americans recorded by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) who fell victim to it.

Investigators warn consumers that they can easily become victims once their personal identifying information are viewed by people they do not know or trust. Aside from those information mentioned above, they remind consumers to guard their debit or credit card number and their bank account number since they can be used to acquire more information about a person.

Meanwhile, experts tell the public about the various ways ID thieves employ various methods to extract information from unknowing consumers. They cited telephone solicitations as one of the most popular ways of getting information out of people, where the scam artist pretends to represent a legitimate company or a charitable organization.

Phishing is another popular method used by ID thieves, where they replicate legal Web pages to deceive Internet users into giving their personal information. A related ID theft method is the use of Spyware, a program that monitors what a computer user does and forwards extracted information to someone else.

Shoulder surfing and dumpster diving is two of the most popular traditional methods used by scam artists, experts note.

Specialists say there is way to stop crooks from victimizing consumers but there are many ways to prevent the crime. Once of which is a regular credit report check to detect fraudulent accounts.  Consumers have one free access to their credit report each year, and experts say consumers can start their year right by checking their credit report.

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