Preventing Identity Theft: A Victim’s Account

A victim of identity theft took matters into her own hands and tracked the thief through the streets of San Francisco, according to Mike Weiss’s excellent article in the San Francisco Chronicle..

First San Francisco resident Karen Lodrick learned that the master keys to her neighborhood mailboxes had been stolen. Then her bank, Wells Fargo, told her about some suspicious activity in her accounts. Before she knew it, the thief had withdrawn $9,000. Apparently the thief had intercepted an unsolicited mailing from a bank, including a certificate of deposit statement that included Lodrick’s social security number. The thief used that information to set up fake accounts in Lodrick’s name. Even after she changed bank account and identification numbers, the thief again broke into her mailbox and stole the new information, starting the cycle all over again.

Lodrick spotted the thief’s unusual coat in a local Starbucks–it was the same coat the ATM camera caught the thief wearing while she cleaned out Lodrick’s accounts–and gave chase on foot. With the help of the San Francisco police, she caught the thief. But the thief got off very lightly. Although she eventually pled guilty to a felony, she was only sentenced to time already served in jail, plus three years’ probation.

That means that perpetrators of identity theft, even if caught, are apparently free to continue to steal the identities of unsuspecting victims. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to keep this from happening to you. The article gives ten suggestions to help prevent identity theft:

  • 1. Keep your social security number in a safe and secure place.
  • 2. Guard your purse or wallet at all times.
  • 3. Limit your credit and debit cards to what you actually use.
  • 4. Carefully check your bank and credit card statements for unauthorized charges.
  • 5. Close credit accounts you don’t use.
  • 6. Shred documents that include personal identifying information, especially pre-approved credit card offers.
  • 7. Before you give out personal identifying information, ask how it will be used.
  • 8. Order your credit reports once a year and check them carefully.
  • 9. Put passwords on your accounts and use them.
  • 10. Use a locked post office box to send and receive mail.

We think these are great tips. Use them and hopefully you can avoid being an identity theft victim yourself.

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