Latest Horror Story on ID Theft: Trip to Disney Cancelled

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Stacy Lyles was your average American, working and saving with a plan for her and her husband David to take their three children to Disney World.  Her husband was an adamant believer in shredding personal documents to keep their identities safe, going so far as to save the shredded pieces and burn them for added security.  If anyone would be safe from the threat of identity theft it should be the Lyles family, right?

Unfortunately, the trip to Disney World had to be cancelled.  An identity thief filed a false tax return using Stacy's identity, spent over $6000 at Best Buy on electronics and rented a U-Haul in Stacy's name which was later abandoned.  U-Haul threatened to have Stacy arrested when the vehicle went missing, and notices for credit cards and other credit accounts started appearing in the Lyles' mailbox.  Their American dream had turned into an American nightmare.

One important thing to notice about Stacy Lyles' story is that it's not a tale of credit card fraud. While the identity thief did try to sign up for credit lines, the ordeal began with a fraudulent tax return.  A vehicle was rented in Stacy's name, and Stacy almost got arrested because of it.  Even though almost everything you hear about identity theft is spun so that it sounds like it's a type of credit card fraud or something you can easily protect against on your own, identity thieves have a number of different ways that they can take over your life.

Think about it.  Most people go through life and never have their homes robbed, or their cars stolen or have to face arson at their home or workplace.  The majority of people don't even know anyone who's been through any of these crimes. Identity theft is quite a different story.  I'm willing to bet that some of you have either been victims of identity theft, or at least know someone who's been a victim. It really is one of the most widespread crimes in the nation, and it seems that with each theft that gets reported the thieves are becoming more advanced and so are their new tactics.

Perhaps the most troubling part of this story: it highlights the vital need for id theft education. If consumers aren't made aware of today's latest id theft problems or available solutions to reduce the blow, how can they make an informed decisions when determining how to protect against fraud?

Despite David's strong sense of security and belief that he was doing all he could to protect his family from fraud, it wasn't until the damage was done that he would learn differently. He worked hard to make sure that no personal records were thrown away where they could be easily grabbed from the trash and his wife was still a victim.  It would have been bad enough if her bank account or credit card info was stolen, but the thief got a hold of Stacy's Social Security number leaving David to recognize their new reality: they would be living in a waiting game now --waiting to hear when another thief would strike and undo everything they've worked for; "It's not if"--he says -"it's when." 

Sadly, David's assessment is right. 

Once a SSN is stolen and used to commit fraud, it's likely to be used again and again. It's often sold multiple times, to multiple thieves, who have multiple uses for it. Thieves use our personally identifying info to commit a variety of crimes; accessing bank accounts, obtaining housing, medical services, employment, utilities, applying for government benefits including; Unemployment insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid and filing fraudulent tax returns stealing tax refunds.  

In fact, filing fraudulent tax refund crimes have grown at a pace that law enforcement agencies and government officials claim have become difficult to keep up with. Officials who testified in House hearings last week noted: once someone gets hold of a name, Social Security and date of birth, they have enough information to go online and file a phony tax return.

The crime is that easy to commit. The cleanup and recovery --not so much.

According to officials: upon a taxpayer learning a fraudulent tax return was filed using their personal info, the wait can be a year and a half, and sometimes longer, before they receive their deserved refund. And worse -as these victims point out, imposters were able to do it again!  

With the holiday season fast approaching, and tax filing season around the corner, it's important to keep in mind the lesson that the Lyles family, had to learn the hard way: identity theft can strike when you least expect it, and the damage can be done before you even know that your identity has been stolen.

If you're relying on your own do-it-yourself diligence or a trusting a standalone credit monitoring service to keep you safe, then you might be in for a particularly nasty surprise when a thief uses your info to commit crimes that are not merely credit related. Even if the theft does show up on your credit history, by the time the thief gets around to applying for credit lines, the thief may already have done a significant amount of damage that may take dozens of hours to clear up.

What Can Be Done?

Take measures to reduce your risk and the potential impact an identity theft can bring into your life, before it occurs. As identity theft has evolved, so has the technology to detect it.

Take the time to learn about today's more advanced identity theft protection services that use up-to-the-minute methods to detect, alert, protect and, if necessary, help correct, harm caused by an identity theft. We may not be able to control whether or not our data is compromised in any of the many reported data breaches --but we can control whether or not we are prepared it! Don't be fooled by those in the media that downplay the risks or very impact of today's id theft crimes. Shredding our documents or simply monitoring our credit is no longer enough of a deterrent for tech savvy criminals.

If you learn from David and Stacy's identity theft nightmare ---you and your family may not have to wake up to your own. Having an identity theft protection service monitor your identity and be there to turn to 24/7 should the worst occur, may help you avoid having to tell your kids the family vacation has been cancelled.

Don't underestimate the value of having someone other than thieves watching over you.

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1 Comment

Terrible crimes these poor people go through. I looked at an offer I got from work for identity prevention. I didn't trust giving them my credit card information any more than I would trust a stranger. No thank you. Thank-you for providing the information I needed to get my free credit reports denise. appreciate all you do.

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