Don’t Become the ‘Target’ of Identity Thieves

I got my identity stolen.

Finally.

So many people have become victims of identify theft, the fact I hadn’t started giving me a complex. “What?” I thought, “I’m not worthy of being taken advantage of?”

The crook is a North Carolina man. He goes by the name of Steve Beauregard — at least, he did for a little while.

A few months back, a nice lady from our credit union called and asked if we had made an in-store purchase at a business in Raleigh, N.C., that very afternoon. I didn’t think anyone in our house made a one-day, round-trip, cross-country jaunt to buy something two time zones away, but the way my wife can power shop, I wasn’t entirely sure.

The caller recapped all the disputed North Carolina purchases and reversed them. I told the banker that the scammer also apparently used the card at Dos Hombres and Andy’s Liquors, but she informed me that false reporting of financial crime is a federal offense, so I just let it go.

This was actually the second time someone pretended to be me, without fully realizing all the negative consequences that go with it.

During college, I lost my wallet a few weeks into my freshman year. I’m not sure how, but let’s just say back then in Colorado, 18-year-old males could legally drink beer. As you might imagine, losing my wallet as a freshman was incredibly stressful, considering that it held important items, such as my license, three dollars and a five-year-old condom.

Fast forward a couple of years, when — while in line at a Boulder convenience store — an underclassman approached me and asked if my name was Steve.

After reluctantly admitting that it was, he bragged that his buddy Mark had found my lost wallet and had been using my driver’s license to buy everyone beer for two years.

I didn’t know what to say, other than to tell him that his friend Mark must be incredibly handsome. I also started to tell him that Mark owes me $3 and a condom, but I got to worrying about how that sounded to the other customers in line, so I just dropped it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about ID theft in light of recent developments. Perhaps you’ve heard the big news from Target: Home furnishings are 20 percent off.

There’s also news about a security breach, in which hackers accessed the accounts of 110 million Target customers. They’ve gained access to credit card numbers, PIN numbers, mailing addresses, email addresses, cholesterol levels, and — in the case of Martin Ziewicki of Dayton, Ohio — his bowling score.

But these are the smart hackers. I only deal with the other ones. Like the guys who email me daily, wanting to gain access to my checking account. These are people who obviously haven’t seen the balance of my checking account.

Still they try for my account number. Sometimes I give it to them, as a sick joke. It’s sort of fun when a Nigerian scammer thinks he’s made a five- or six-figure score, only to discover he’s wound up with just 42 cents and two overdraft fees.

To prevent your identity from being stolen, experts offer several tips, including the suggestions that you never go within 12 feet of a computer and to pay for everything with beaver pelts. However, if you are going to shop online, they recommend you only do business with large, reputable retailers that have been around a while. Like Target.

Also, never give out your account information and Social Security numbers. Unless of course, it’s to someone you’ve never met who asks for it over the phone or online.

Lastly, if you discover someone has stolen your identity, immediately report them to the police. If we all work together, hopefully we can bring these thieves to justice.

Especially Mark. He still owes me $3.

Reach Steve Beauregard at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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