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Stealing IDs is big business
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According to the California District Attorney's Association, "every three seconds a new identity theft occurs and the victim doesn't even know." That constitutes a staggering number of victims who have fallen prey to criminals who might live in their same city, or who are committing their crimes from half-way around the world. The problem is so severe that it can be called a "crime epidemic," with law enforcement and the criminal justice system trailing way behind.

Identity theft really means, in most instances, that a criminal has hijacked a victim's name and other identifying information, which in turn is used to access credit card accounts, checking accounts, to open new credit accounts or to purchase items subject to financing. In some instances, the stolen identity is used to create cover for a wanted criminal, or for a criminal to.

Stolen identity sales are a huge world-wide criminal business. Criminals "harvest" information from computers, they can hack into web sites, business data bases as well as other personal identity sources. The low-tech criminals sift through garbage cans, dumpsters and mailboxes to obtain similar information. Regardless of the manner in which they obtain it, it ends up being used for the same purpose - to illegally gain money, goods and services. Some of the identity thieves use the information themselves to perpetrate fraud in the name of hapless victims, while others sell the information. Criminals involved in selling this kind of information have, in some cases, literally millions of stolen identities for sale.

The implications for this world-wide identity theft crisis are that everyone must be careful to protect their identity, credit accounts and checking accounts. The first step to protect yourselves from identity theft, hence any attacks on your financial interests, is to be careful about how you dispose of checks, credit card statements and how securely you handle transactions in connection with credit accounts. The point is to never allow the wrong people to obtain your personal information. Such things as your social security number, driver's license number, personal identification numbers, etc., should be closely guarded. Be sure to shred papers like bills, credit card statements, old checks, and even such things as credit account offers that come in the mail.

People should also be aware that mail deposited in neighborhood collection boxes are subject to thefts by thieves who "fish" letters out with a wire or other devices. Not all mailboxes are experiencing these thefts, but if you are unsure about them, use the post office drop slot instead.

There are many preventative steps you can take to protect yourselves from identity theft, most of which are common sense in nature. The idea is to be aware, to be cautious and to check your credit and checking accounts regularly for any signs of suspicious activity. Many banks and various other companies now offer identity theft insurance, which is also an option to help protect your financial interests. Contact you local police department or conduct a web search if you are interested in finding out more about this serious problem.