The Florida Bar
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Identity Theft

Table of Contents
What is Identity Theft?
How Does Identity Theft Occur?
Dumpster Diving
Skimming
Pfishing
Changing Your Address
Just Plain Stealing
What They Do With Your Information
FTC Complaints
Top Florida Cities for Fraud
Specific Laws Addressing Identity Theft
Prevention Tips
What if you become a victim?
Examples of cases


What is Identity Theft?
According to the Federal Trade Commission External Link opens in a new window, approximately 9 million American have their identity stolen each year. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes for the purpose of:
    Assuming another person’s identity
    Obtaining credit or credit card
    Medical identity theft
    Stealing money from credit, checking and savings accounts
    Gaining employment
    Filing bankruptcy
    Leasing or purchasing automobiles


How Does Identity Theft Occur?
Identity theft can occur in a number of ways, either through digging through your trash, recording your credit card numbers, obtaining your personal information through false pretenses, changing your address to receive items at a separate location, and stealing wallets, purses or driver licenses. Legal authorities call such crimes Dumpster Diving, Skimming and Pfishing.

Dumpster Diving
By leaving your un-shredded bank statements, credit card statements, medical bills, pre-approved credit card solicitations, and other personal documents in your kitchen garbage can attract thieves and lead to a financial tragedy. Any one of those documents can be sitting in your outside garbage bins waiting for someone to come steal your garbage and piece together your mail.
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Skimming
Be careful of who you provide your credit card information. Criminally-minded retailers exist and can easily run your card in a special copying machine during the course of legitimately running your transactions.

Pfishing
Pfishing—This word looks funny but sounds familiar. Every day thousands of people receive emails from senders claiming to be financial institutions requesting you to click on a link to verify information. These links are actually fictitious sites created by thieves who send spam or pop-up messages to gain your personal information.

NEVER log onto your financial sites from an email link. You should always type your bank’s address separately and log on apart from email.
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Changing Your Address
Changing your address—this is self- explanatory. Thieves change your address to have future personal documents sent directly to them by completing a change of address form.

Just Plain Stealing
The age old grab and run! Don’t let this conventional means of stealing your identity fool you. Carrying little cash with you should not negate your concerns for losing your wallet. Credit cards, social security cards, health care needs and any other non-threatening document can give a thief exactly what they need to steal from you.
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What They Do With Your Information
Thieves may open credit card accounts in your name, fail to pay bills and hurt your credit. By changing your billing address, you may never know that your account is being charged. Utilities, wireless, cable and heating accounts can be opened using your information. Thieves can also create fake checks using your name, write illegitimate checks or duplicate your ATM card. Some thieves may even take out loans in your name. Fake IDs can also be made using his or her picture with your information. Vehicles and houses are not to be discounted, they too can be rented in your name, and jobs can be obtained using your social security number.

FTC Complaints External Link opens in a new window
According to the Federal Trade Commission, there were almost 314,000 complaints of identity theft in 2008, almost 260,000 a year before and over 246,000 in 2006. Credit card theft has the largest percentage of complaints, followed by existing non-credit card accounts such as checking and saving accounts.
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Top Florida Cities for Fraud
Of all the countrywide complainants of victims 2008, 24 percent were between 20 and 29 years of age. Miami followed by Punta Gorda and Sebastian had the highest number of complaints, respectively.

Specific Laws Addressing Identity Theft
A criminal can receive up to 10 years imprisonment depending on amount of money stolen. There are both civil and criminal federal laws addressing identity theft. One of which includes the:
Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 PDF document opens in new window External Link opens in a new window which carries up to 30 years and fines, depending on amounts and the person’s criminal background.
Other civil laws include credit laws used to protect consumers; Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Credit Billing Act and many others.
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Prevention Tips
There are some ways you can protect yourself from identity theft. When it comes to personal finance matters, order and review copies of our financial report from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion every year. Also,
    Empty your wallet of extra credit cards and identity
    Shred all financial documents you plan to discard
    Only release personal data to agencies who require it to initiate certain actions
    Your department of motor vehicles can issue drivers licenses without your social security number
    Ensure your pin numbers cannot be viewed by others when entering it into an ATM
    Shred all financial receipts and never leave then at the retail location
    Do not keep passwords or your Social Security number in your wallet
    Remove mail promptly from your mailbox
    Deposit outgoing mail in locked post collection boxes, not in your mailbox
    Use caution when supplying your financial information over the Internet
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What if you become a victim?
However, all is not lost if you do become a victim.

Call your credit reporting agencies:
* TransUnion: (800) 680-7289; www.transunion.com External Link opens in a new window; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
* Equifax: (800) 525-6285; www.equifax.com External Link opens in a new window; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
* Experian: (888) EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com External Link opens in a new window P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013
Close accounts and alert fraud departments of each company where and account was opened or changed without your permission.
File a police report with your local authorities, state attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission.
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Examples of Cases
In the southern district of Florida, a woman was indicted and pleaded guilty to federal charges involving her obtaining fraudulent driver’s license in the name of the victim, using the license to withdraw more than $13,000 from the victims bank account, and obtaining five department store credit cards in the victims name and charging approximately $4,000 on those cards.

In the middle district of Florida, a defendant has been indicted on bank fraud charges for obtaining names, addresses and social security numbers from a Web site and using those data to apply for a series of car loans over the Internet.

For More Information
Contact the FTC's Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: (877) ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: (866) 653-4261; or you can write to the Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.
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[Revised: 2/10]