The Latest Identity Theft Trend: Identity Manipulation

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It seems like every time law enforcement gets a leg up on identity thieves the scammers find some other way to run their cons.  In the past it often took some sort of actual theft to get information about a person's identity, be it stealing mail or hacking into a computer to steal user data.  This latest reported trend in identity theft is much more passive than this, and potentially more hazardous because identity thieves don't have to have a particular victim in mind to pull it off.

The practice known as "identity manipulation" as described in a recent Sun Sentinel article, is fairly straightforward.  When filling out a credit card application or applying for other types of credit, the applicant "accidentally" writes down the wrong personal info; Social Security number and birth date. It's not off by much, just a few digits switched around so that it appears to be a simple mistake if anyone notices.  Once the credit card or loan is approved, the identity manipulator uses it just like he would any other card or loan.  However, odds are good the Social Security number that was "accidentally" written down, belongs to someone -someone who doesn't know his SSN is in use by someone else. 

If the identity manipulator doesn't make his payments on the credit card or loan, that negative info will eventually be reported to the credit bureaus --and that bad payment history can be matched-up with the owner of that Social Security number.  This can cause serious damage to the victim's credit, and may later be made worse --if that same SSN is used for purposes beyond obtaining credit; obtaining; employment, medical services, unemployment insurance and more --all without the victim's knowledge. 

Identity manipulation -isn't exactly new, but this latest trend that involves the changing of some key identity information, such as your name, Social Security number or date of birth is getting the attention of law enforcement officials.

According to a recent study by ID Analytics, a California based risk management company, there has been a significant increase in the popularity of id manipulation. Research was based on data from 307 million Americans who applied for credit in the past seven years, which was provided by clients of ID Analytics, such as banks, credit card companies, cell phone companies and other financial institutions. The results seem alarming; 45 million people in the U.S. manipulated their identities.

Not surprisingly, the study revealed that Florida, and in particular S Florida, had a higher than expected number of bad credit applications --which could be examples of deliberate identity manipulation. The most concentrated areas in S Florida where bad apps originated appears to come from ZIP codes beginning with 330, 331 and 333 -- representing parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties. For more Florida statistics see: S. Florida is a hotbed for "identity manipulation".

Identity theft trends continue to expand and evolve. Whether your personal information is used to clean out your bank accounts, file false tax returns, obtain government or medical benefits, or used to commit other crimes, the crime can affect you for years to come.

Criminals are successfully utilizing many technological advances to invade our lives.  We need to use the same technology to stop them in their tracks. Consider reviewing today's identity theft protection services.  Some of them now include an array of sophisticated software programs able to detect and alert you to potential problems--before significant damage occurs --saving you, and your family, immeasurable frustrations and losses involved reversing the damaging effects of identity theft!

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