Identity Theft - Stealing from the Inside Out

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Whether you dine out at the best restaurants or you prefer casual fast-food places, your identity and credit card data might be at risk thanks to an unrelenting wave of crime that seems to be taking over like a fast-moving virus. Today's masterminds of thievery have been able to convince hard-working employees into making bad decisions--choices that could end up placing them in jail and you with a lot of explaining to do.

Recently, fifty-five gang members, and others, were busted for running a $2 million identity theft ring; aided by the tellers, an identity theft ring made phone and wire transfers from the victims' accounts and got credit cards in their names.  Authorities say accomplices would forge checks, deposit them in other people's bank accounts and withdraw the money as soon as it cleared.

In another incident an identity-theft ring with a taste for luxury targeted patrons of such high-end eateries as Wolfgang's Steakhouse and Smith & Wollensky. Enticing waiters at the restaurants to use skimming devices in order to steal credit card data, the identity thieves gained access to at least fifty different credit cards before getting caught. The thieves developed quite an elaborate scheme creating fake credit card accounts and driver's licenses using the stolen information. Then, they had associates go out on a luxury spending spree at such high-end stores as Neiman Marcus and Chanel.

In other insider ID theft news, recent patrons of the Oak Park McDonald's in Detroit weren't exactly lovin' it.  In fact, the break they got wasn't what they expected --or one they deserved. They got a bad break when identity thieves used an insider to skim their credit cards. The employee responsible for using a handheld skimming device was brought up in federal court on charges that could land her in prison for as long as 15 years. More than 100 consumer credit cards were skimmed in only a short period of time, and the customers were none the wiser until unauthorized credit card charges began to appear.

While the offers of easy cash should set off an alarm warning newbie's considering entering the world of identity theft that promises of easy cash are too good to be true. But, without understanding today's id theft trends and the high price they could pay for their participation in these crimes, alarms don't sound. Taken in by the promise of easy money, people struggling to pay their debts or tired of waiting for their lucky break jump first --and think about the ramifications later.

Who gets drawn into this type of criminal activity?

Well, quick cash is very tempting especially to cash-strapped homeowners facing foreclosure, young college students faced with dropping out of college, consumers looking at defaulting on one or more loans, and parents faced with telling their young ones that hand-me-down clothing is just as attractive as brand new duds.

And it's not just restaurants that ID theft rings infiltrate. Thieves are known to entice any employee with ready access to data -ready and willing to either copy down personal data by hand, make use of handheld skimmers or assist in placing fixed skimming devices on ATMs and gas station pumps where debit, credit cards and pins are commonly used.

If you are thinking that you will be safe from identity theft if you stick to the use of cash -think again. It's not just your credit card info that these insider thieves are after either.

The masterminds go after and recruit secondary thieves, insiders within public locations, for something more than just access to your credit card. These insiders include, hospital employees, bank tellers, personnel at the physicians or staff at the dental office, tax preparation employees, government employees, and anyone else who may have access to the crème de la crème - the real gold, your Social Security Number (SSN).

Today, people that you should be able to trust may be aiding and abetting the criminals. And more and more, these people are employed individuals who are simply cash strapped and struggling to make ends meet, keep a roof over their heads, or stay in school. Eventually, these offers to make easy cash are becoming too good to turn down for some of these people. Many of them would never think of turning to crime to pay their bills. And yet, they do, because they see identity theft in a different light. It's not even a real crime to some of them. After all, they aren't going to hurt anyone, and they mistakenly believe that it's just information they are stealing, not money. They lull themselves to believe they aren't actually stealing anything of value. It's the next guy who is going to commit the crime - the guy who takes the information and uses it to make unauthorized purchases.

An identity thief's job is to make these individuals feel that way. They are good at their job. They want to get their hands on this data more than anything, because they can use it over and over again. And they can make big profits selling it over and over to multiple criminals  So, these professional identity thieves manipulate people who may be struggling to pay their bills, or target those vulnerable to their swagger and aptly hide the harsh reality of the fall they are setting them up for.  

Another point in this equation is that all too many consumers equate identity theft with credit card fraud or their credit rating and spending availability. And that creates a misguided view of their true risks and real value of their data.

Some people with less than perfect credit or outright bad credit often believe that nobody would want to steal their "credit," and so, they develop a cavalier attitude of "take it -who cares." However, these individuals overlook the underlying point: criminals don't want their "credit information" they want their personally identifying information and what they can obtain using it. Criminals today understand that your SSN and date of birth can bring them much more than your cash, available credit or spending power.

Identity thieves are using your SSN to file for unemployment and Medicare. They are using it to file fraudulent tax returns and hijack your Social Security checks. Believe it, because these and other intrusive crimes have happened to lots of people.  

Emptying out bank accounts, implementing HELOC fraud and creating medical identity theft are all crimes that continue to increase in number - and so should your awareness of today's identity theft trends and the security measures that you take. There's a lot to be said for taking control of your life -before someone you never met does.
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