Have You Heard of "Total Identity Theft?"
When you think of identity theft, you probably imagine unexpected transactions on bank statements or a scary warning from a credit company. But some criminals go way beyond using credit card numbers or online banking accounts, as proven by a recent case in Kansas reported by the Associated Press.
Candida L. Gutierrez is a victim of what's known as "total identity theft." A woman used her persona to get a driver's license, job and mortgage. She even used Gutierrez's personal identity when she was in the hospital giving birth. To add salt on the wound, when Gutierrez tried to fight back, the impostor insisted that she herself was the real Guiterrez.
"When she claimed my identity and I claimed it back, she was informed that I was claiming it too," Gutierrez told the news source. "She knew I was aware and that I was trying to fight, and yet she would keep fighting. It is not like she realized and she stopped. No, she kept going, and she kept going harder."
Now Guiterrez has to spend a lot of time on the phone with creditors and at government offices trying to clear her name and make her situation known. The alleged thief was eventually caught and arrested, thanks to some internet sleuthing by Guiterrez's husband.
While this victim had her identity stolen after her information was lifted from a mortgage application, many people become victims when their mobile identity is compromised.
Elizabeth Baker, an assistant professor at Wake Forest University, says that mobile phone users should never keep financial information like social security numbers, logins, passwords or account numbers on their device. They should refrain from sending financial information, and keep an eye on their online bank statements to make sure there have been no fraudulent charges.
The Federal Trade Commission also warns about "phishing," a term used to refer to a scam in which thieves send emails or text messages that contain links in an effort to extract personal data. Phishing can cause major internet privacy issues, so it's always best to refrain from replying to any messages that seem peculiar or unfamiliar.
If you do receive such a message, you can forward it to the government agency that deals with such scams. Their address is email@example.com. You can also alert the company that the scammer is attempting to impersonate.