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identity theft

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  • Jurydoctor@aol.com
    ... Amy Singer, Ph.D. President Trial Consultants, Inc. 840 N.E. 20th. Ave. Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33304 (954) 525-9662 www.trialconsultants.com
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31, 2003
      > The Creepy Crime of Identity Theft
      > http://www.newsday.com/news/yahoo/ny-
      > p2bottom23106378jan29,0,5453214.column
      > The Creepy Crime of Identity Theft
      > Susan Cheever
      > January 29, 2003
      > Identity theft is as old as the Old Testament story of Jacob, who
      > tricked his aging father into giving him a blessing meant for his
      > brother Esau. Esau was hairy, and Jacob was smooth, so Esau believed
      > his father could not confuse them. By wearing hairy goatskins, Jacob
      > was able to fool their father, assume his brother's identity and get
      > the blessing.
      > These days we have 10- digit numbers and invisible holographs to
      > keep people from taking our identities. We have secret passwords,
      > our mother's maiden name and protective software. It all works about
      > as well as Esau's hairiness did. In the United States, identity
      > theft almost doubled last year, according to a Federal Trade
      > Commission report released last week, and occurs most commonly
      > through credit card theft or on the Internet. New York is one of the
      > states hardest hit, ranking in the top 10.
      > In our fast-moving world, where few people have the time to look
      > beyond the surface, it is criminally easy to pretend to be someone
      > else. In the movie "Catch Me If You Can," Leonardo DiCaprio plays
      > Frank Abagnale Jr., who posed as a Pan American pilot, a district
      > attorney and a doctor supervising surgery - all during the same
      > year. The movie shows that identity is easy to fake: A recognizable
      > uniform, a few key words and a winning smile will do it.
      > The audience whooped with delight as DiCaprio charmed bank officials
      > into cashing checks he created in a bathtub. I wondered if they
      > would they have been as thrilled if the talented Mr. Abagnale had
      > turned his skills in their direction? It's a common experience these
      > days. Someone wielding my credit card bought $1,500 worth of machine
      > parts at a garage in Wisconsin. Someone else charged hundreds of
      > dollars worth of calls to somewhere in Indonesia on my phone bill. A
      > friend found that a forged version of her credit card had paid for a
      > $4,000 party in a small Greek hotel.
      > In real life, identity theft can be a nightmare. Some victims spend
      > thousands of dollars and take months of time before they are able to
      > unsnarl the tangle of phony addresses and bad debts left by the
      > false versions of themselves. Victims have been denied loans for
      > housing and education, found themselves liable for accidents
      > involving cars they didn't buy and have never seen, and even lost
      > job opportunities.
      > Furthermore, there's something creepy about identity theft,
      > something about a thief pretending to be me, that violates more than
      > my legal and civil rights. Esau was so outraged at having his
      > identity stolen that he planned to murder Jacob as soon as their
      > father died.
      > Identity is more fragile than we like to think; we all change all
      > the time. What gives me identity anyway? My smoothness? My Social
      > Security number? My name? My job? I feel different in a new dress or
      > when someone calls me by a childhood nickname. In a different city,
      > in a different house, making a living in a different profession,
      > would I be the same person? The nugget of character we call the soul
      > would not change, perhaps, but my behavior would probably change, my
      > circumstances would certainly change and the way I see the world
      > would change.
      > Even during the months when I teach each year, I notice a change - I
      > come to expect the response I get from my students. When I get home,
      > I'm surprised that people don't laugh at my jokes and that their
      > attention seems to wander when I'm lecturing them.
      > Identity thieves have dozens of different methods. They acquire your
      > credit card number and manufacture a bogus card. Or, using your
      > Social Security number, they open a charge account in your name at a
      > different address; by the time you know what's happened, bills have
      > been piling up for months. They pose as a landlord or employer and
      > get access to your credit report. Thieves go through the garbage -
      > this is called "Dumpster diving" - to get the information they need
      > or pay clerks to "skim" your credit card number when you use it in a
      > store. Sometimes they open a bank account in your name or file for
      > bankruptcy under your name to avoid paying the debts they amassed.
      > If we want to stop identity theft, we need to see it as a serious
      > crime, not a source of amusement. To protect yourself, the Federal
      > Trade Commission suggests checking your credit report every year,
      > guarding mail and trash from theft, giving out your Social Security
      > number rarely - and only if absolutely necessary - and remembering
      > that the information on your personal computer may not be private.
      > And, of course, watch out for people wearing goatskins.
      > Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.

      Amy Singer, Ph.D.
      Trial Consultants, Inc.
      840 N.E. 20th. Ave.
      Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33304
      (954) 525-9662

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