The Fastest Growing Crime In America
In the ongoing Financial Literacy speaker, Rae Russell a speaker for the San Diego Financial Literacy Center brought awareness to identity theft. On Oct. 26, Russell invited students to be aware of one of the fastest growing white-collar crime in America.
Russell aimed to emphasize that anyone can be a victim of identity theft and raise awareness within students of their finances. Russell spoke about the six types of identity theft, including a driver license, credit cards, social security, medical papers, criminal papers and any type of financial paperwork. If anyone besides original owners were to get ahold of such information, it could cause great financial and legal damage.
What could happen if you fall into having your identity stolen? There have been cases where criminals can apply for credit, obtain a driver license, and cash checks under your name. During the lecture, David Jo Hernandez’s case was presented to the audience. Hernandez, who had been serving in the air force, returned home to find out he had arrest warrants for driving on a revoked license, as well as twenty eloquent accounts for cell phone bills, credit cards, utility bills and even hospital bills.
Hernandez’s case did not stop there. He had been linked to felonies of auto theft and drug charges. Hernandez had to spend around two years to prove his innocence and clean up the mess the criminal had created for him.
Russell warned her audience that it’s not only people with credit cards and bank accounts; children are also at risk. Many criminals prefer young children as their target because they have a clean history. Russell suggested that parents be aware of their children’s credit reports just as much as their own most importantly because these crimes may not be noticeable for many years.
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, 22 percent of Americans have had their Social Security Number tied to someone else’s. Other reports state victims of identity theft spend an average of 157.87 hours trying to solve cases that involve identity theft.
“Identity theft is the only crime committed in America today where you are presumed guilty until you are proven innocent,” said Russell.
Russell let Mesa students know that there is three ways way to protect themselves from identity theft. She encouraged people to shred financial documents, stay away from obvious passwords, and make sure information is kept as secure as possible. Suspicious activity can be detected by keeping track of financial accounts and billing statements, and Russell suggests asking questions if your bills don’t arrive on time or your credit is denied for any reason.
Russell advised her audience to check their credit score at least once a year. You can do this for free using sites like www.AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 1(877) 322-8228. If you find yourself in danger due to identity theft, it is important to place a fraud alert on credit reports and file a police report as well as contact the Federal Trade Commission.