The Long-Lasting Effects of Identity Theft

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The thought of having your identity stolen and used by someone else is unnerving. Some of us have lived through it, and most of us have read about others that it's happened to and how they struggle for months to get all of their problems straightened out with creditors and banks. That's usually where the news story ends, leaving readers to assume that the victim's ordeal is either over or will be soon.  Unfortunately, this is sometimes only the beginning of the victim's problems.

Take Mashara Williams for example.  An architect with no prior problems with the law, Williams discovered that her identity had been stolen when the identity thief began accumulating traffic tickets.  The police were able to catch the woman who had used Williams' identity to obtain a driver's license, buy a car and insure it; the District Attorney of Fulton County, Georgia informed Williams that the woman had confessed and Williams thought it was the end of the story.  She obtained a new driver's license number, checked her credit report and moved on with her life.

Mashara Williams had her identity stolen in 2008.  A few weeks ago, she was pulled over because the officer believed the tinting on her car windows was too dark.  Instead of being told to remove the tint and receiving a ticket, however, Williams was arrested on a failure to appear charge from DeKalb County.  An innocent woman who had been victimized three years prior, the now-pregnant Williams had to spend the night in a crowded jail cell as a result of that theft and had to start the process of clearing her name all over again.

Just because an identity thief is caught doing one thing with your identity doesn't mean that there weren't other crimes committed before he or she was caught.  The thief might admit to stealing your identity but won't mention anything else that went on.  If your identity thief committed other crimes, they may be attached to your identity and you won't find out about them until you're being put in handcuffs after a routine traffic stop or when police show up at your door.

This also shows why it's important to know that checking your credit report or signing up for a standalone credit monitoring service isn't necessarily going to give you the full picture when it comes to identity theft.  Your credit report is not always affected by fraud --at least not for a while. If the thief uses your personal information to secure credit cards or other financial products that report to the credit bureaus -it will show up.  Other uses of your identity such as getting a driver's license or getting a speeding ticket won't show up but can cause significantly more harm than a credit card.

If you are thinking of enrolling in an identity theft protection service, you should take the time to read Consumer Federation's "Nine Things to Check When Shopping for Identity Theft Services" ---because when it comes identity theft --what you don't know will hurt you.

Mashara Williams share's her experience of being put behind bars after being arrested for identity theft below;  

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