Have you ever eaten at a restaurant, paid with a credit card, and forgotten to get your copy of the credit card receipt? Did you know that many of these receipts have your credit card number printed right there for anyone to see (and use)? And, if you've signed them, your signature is also right there for someone to carefully copy. This can lead to the most simple form of identity theft. With this bit of information, some unscrupulous person can be well on his way to making purchases either by phone or on the Internet using your credit card number. You won't know about it until you get your statement (a good reason why you should always study the charges on your credit card statements!). All they have to have, in most cases, is your mailing address, which can be looked up in a phone book or easily found on the Internet.
Credit card fraud is identity theft in its most simple and common form. It can be accomplished either through a scenario like the one we just mentioned, or it can happen when your pre-approved credit card offers fall into the wrong hands. All a person has to do is get these out of your mailbox (or trash can) and mail them in with a change of address request and start spending. Someone can even apply for a credit card in your name if they have the right information. You won't know a thing about it until the credit card company tracks you down and demands payment for the purchases "you" have a racked up.
With a person's name, social security number and date of birth, someone can get loans, access the person's existing bank accounts, open new bank accounts, lease or buy cars, get insurance, you name it. Think about the things you throw in the trash. Do you throw your pay stubs away once you've recorded the amount in your checkbook? Take a look at some of the information on that seemingly unimportant piece of paper:
- Your full name
- Your address
- Your social security number
- Your complete bank account number (if you have direct deposit)
- Your employer and its address
- Your rate of pay
Now, think about the types of information you have to provide in order to get a credit card or a loan or lease a car. There is very little additional information that is needed in order to get that loan. I recently got a home equity loan and did all but the final signing of the documents over the phone, and faxed all of my financial information directly to the loan officer. It would not have been that difficult to "create" those documents using someone else's social security number, bank account numbers and other personal information. That's a scary thought! Imagine finding out that someone had gotten a mortgage in your name. Clearing that up with the bank and getting it off of your credit history would be quite a battle. You are left with the time-consuming task of repairing your credit and getting your finances back on track.