If you still don’t take steps to protect your identity from identity thieves, maybe recounting some outrageous identity theft cases will inspire you into action. Every year millions of Americans are victims of identity theft, and while most of the time the damage is relatively minor, other times victims can be forced to pay thousands of dollars to get their credit back on track, they can end up getting arrested for other people’s crimes, or, in the most extreme cases, they can be forced to change their names and social security numbers to start fresh. What follows are three identity theft horror stories that should scare anyone into compulsively shredding their documents.
When a young college student noticed that he didn’t have his credit card after visiting a mall, he immediately called to report it stolen. The credit card company informed him that the card had just been used to purchase $40 worth of pizza in the mall. Thinking on his feet, the college student called the police. When the police arrived at the pizzeria, did they find a broke high school student munching on purloined pizza? No, they found that the card had been used by a man who turned out to be a dentist. And not just a run-of-the-mill dentist, but a millionaire. Apparently the man found the credit card outside the mall and promptly used it to order pizza, even though he had approximately $250 in his wallet and a net worth of over $3 million. The moral of the story is it isn’t just professional identity thieves you have to worry about. You never know who will take advantage when you let your guard down.
How many times have you sat down at a public computer and accessed your email, bank accounts, credit cards, or any other site requiring a password? You always know you need to log out and close the browser to prevent other people from getting access after you leave, but what happens when a hacker installs “keylogging” software on those computers that allows him to capture all the personal information you input? That’s exactly what Mario Simbaqueba Bonilla did in a string of public computers, mostly at hotels and public computer lounges. He was able to gather personal information of more than 600 people and transferred money from their accounts into his own. He was caught, but this should give you pause before you access sensitive websites from public computers. In you can, wait until you get home.
When the police arrest someone, it isn’t all that difficult to give a fake name, address, and date of birth. Usually this is innocuous enough, but when Wisconsin resident Malcolm Byrd found out a drug dealer had been using his identity, he tried to straighten it out. But Byrd has been arrested multiple times over the years, including once for two days, because of outstanding warrants his identity thief has accrued.