Think You Are Safe From Identity Theft? Think Again.

Paul Allen is one of the richest men in the world. He, along with Bill Gates helped co-found the billion dollar Microsoft Enterprise. In January 2012, Paul Allen called Citibank and requested an address change from his Seattle, WA account to his Pittsburg, PA home. On March 26, three days later, Paul Allen called Citibank again and asked for a new debit card to be sent to Pittsburg because he lost his old card. Paul Allen then attempted to transfer 15,000 dollars using Western Union  to help pay off a 658 dollar loan on his Armed Forces bank account (Pennell, 2012). Paul Allen, the real Paul Allen, was never involved. In fact, Paul Allen was unaware that he changed his address at all.  Just recently, about a week ago, I got a call from my stepfather. He asks me how my day was, and then asks me a blunt question: “Did you or anyone you know file for income taxes this year? Because I just got off the phone with my tax agent and he tells me you have already filed for income taxes.” I told him no. Identity theft can strike us all and we need to be protected. As you can see, in my case and in Mr. Allen’s, we have been victims. How safe are you? Today I am going to present you with methods ID thieves use, how you can protect yourself, and what to do if you have been a victim.

So what exactly is ID theft?

I. ID theft is the obtaining of another’s personal, financial information in order to commit fraud.
A. ID theft is the fastest-growing crime in the US affecting 10 million of Americans (Canton, 2006).
B. Costs billions dollars a year in expenses and time lost (Canton, 2006).
C. Young, 18-24, and well-to-do (over $75k/yr) are the most targeted (McMillan, 2006)
D. Some common methods include:
1. dumpster diving
2. skimming (storing credit card data AKA phony ATM machine)
3. Phishing (posers)
4. change of address
5. Stealing wallet or mail
6. False pretense (calling bank, school to get info).
E. Thieves can create bank accounts, get loans, get a job, buy a house, get a new ID, get arrested, pay for utility bills all under your name.
F. Thinking about reselling your Android phone or Windows XP computer? Even though you delete your files containing important information, data traces can still be exploited (Netburn, 2012).
G. Children are being targetted. Easier to create an fake ID using a child’s info (Schoenrock, 2012).
1. Ten percent of children’s social security number used by someone else.
2. 51 times more likely to be a victim.

So how can we protect ourselves?
II. Awareness is the most important weapon you have.
A. Get a shredder (or burn).
B. Protect your social security number.
1. Don’t carry your card with you and don’t write it down on a piece of paper in your wallet.
2. Not everybody needs your SS#. Ask if you can opt out.
C. Do not give your personal information to everybody. Know who you are dealing with. Be aware of phishers.
D. Secure your documents at home. Use a bank vault if you do not feel safe leaving it at home.
E. Never click on a link from an email you do not know. Solicitation emails are a major source of phishing scams and malware.
F. Computer protection is a must.
1. Don’t sell your Android phones or Computers running lower than Windows 7. If you are going to, make sure you destroy the hard-drive (Netburn, 2012).
2. Make your password difficult.
3. Firewall and Scanner up-to-date
a. AVG - free service at home
b. McAfee
c. Norton
G. Check your credit report. Law mandates one free report every year from AnnualCreditReport.com
H. Inspect your documents
1. When bills are delayed or do not arrive on time.
2. Unrecognized purchases
3. Denials on loans, credit cards, accounts
4. Changes on your billing info
D. Consider getting identity theft insurance.
1. LifeLock
2. Equifax
Protecting yourself against identity theft is a must, but what happens if you are a victim?

III. Defend your identity the second you suspect it is happening.
A. Most people do not find out they are victims until (Federal Trade Commission, 2012):
1. You apply for a loan and it is denied because of a problem in your credit history
2. You get bill collectors calling you to pay off a loan you never asked for
3. You get mail telling you of a house or car you own and need to pay for
E. If you are a victim, contact one of these companies and ask to be placed on Fraud Alert, toll free 90 alert. You only need to call one (Federal Trade Commission, 2012).
1. Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
2. TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
3. Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
F. Contact the security or fraud department of each company involved
1. Keep documents of all conversations
2. Ask for written follow-up on all decisions made
3. Follow-up in writing
G. File a police report
H. Report the ID theft to the Federal Trade Commission.
1. By phone: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or TTY, 1-866-653-4261
2. Online: http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft
I. Educate your children.

Paul Allen is not exempt from ID theft. And remember that neither are you. You are all young, bright, and optimistic, even those of you who are more seasoned in life can benefit from what you have learned today. The chances that you could be a victim is 5% (Canton, 2006). That may seem miniscule, but today, with the growing rate of ignorance and the sophistication of ID theft techniques being used, it will pay you in the long run to be aware of your financial and personal blueprint in this modernized, technologically advanced society we live in. Be aware of your blueprint: it’s just a few numbers and addresses but in the wrong hands it’s a completely new person and the consequences is your responsibility. Be empowered.


Canton, J. (2006). The extreme future: the top trends that will reshape the world in the next 20 years. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
Federal Trade Commission. (2012). About identity theft. Retrieved from:  http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft//consumers/about-identity-theft.html
McMillan, R. (2006, Apr 3) How common is identity theft? IDG News. Retrieved from: http://www.pcworld.com/article/125291/how_common_is_identity_theft.html
Netburn, D. (2012, March 23). McAfee identity theft expert on which devices are safe to resell. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from: http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-how-to-sell-a-used-computer-expert-20120322,0,6300325.story
Pennell, R. (2012, March 27). Microsoft co-founder Allen’s identity stolen. Today News. Retrieved from: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/46872495/ns/today-today_news/t/microsoft-co-founder-allen-has-identity-stolen/#.T3NgumGm9-c

Schoenrock, P. (2012, March 26). Protecting the innocent: the basics of child identity theft. Retrieved from: http://blog.equifax.com/credit/protecting-the-innocent-the-basics-of-child-identity-theft/

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