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MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. ? Identity theft is an increasing problem in the United States. Anyone can become a victim, but taking preventive measures reduces the risks.

Photo by Photo Illustration by Lance Cpl. Randy L. Little

Key to identity theft prevention

26 Jun 2007 | Lance Cpl. Randy Little

Most people go about their daily routine not worried about becoming a victim of identity theft; however, identity theft is an increasing problem in the United States.

“Identity theft has become one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States,” said Boisy Pardue, Crime Prevention Specialist, Provost Marshal’s Office, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

Some people tend to think they are immune to identity theft but they’re not. Identity theft victims are increasing exponentially.

“One reason for the increase in identity theft may be consumers often become victims of identity theft without having any direct contact with the identity thieves who acquire their personal data,” Pardue stated.

Thieves no longer have to rely on breaking into someone’s house to steal their personal information.

“Identity thieves can acquire personal information when you charge dinner at a restaurant, use payment cards to purchase gasoline or rent a car, or when you submit personal information to employers,” Pardue said.

Identity thieves also rummage through trash cans to check for old credit card purchases, bills or other papers containing personal information.

Once thieves steal information, they can use it to rent an apartment, obtain a credit card, or establish a telephone account – anything that requires identifying information.

Most people don’t realize they have become a victim until they review their credit statements or notices purchases they didn’t make. A person might be contacted by a debt collector before they find out they are victim of identity theft.

Although everyone has the potential to become an identity theft victim, there are procedures that can be followed to reduce the risk of becoming a victim.

“Some prevention measures that can be taken are to sign all credit cards once received and never lend them to anyone, cancel and destroy credit cards not in use and keep a list of regularly used cards and carry only the identification information and credit cards needed,” said Pardue.

Victims of identity theft should contact their bank or credit card companies to inform them about stolen credit cards or checks right away.
“After people contact their bank or credit card company, they should file a report immediately with [PMO] and report the case to the Federal Trade Commission,” explained Pardue. “Some creditors might want a copy of the police report before correcting the credit account or credit report,” he continued.

It’s important to report identity theft as soon as it’s discovered. Consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports.

Identity theft can happen to anyone who is careless with their personal information. Taking preventive measures will help reduce the risk of being victimized by thieves, save people money and time and keep people out of jail.