By Donna Ryun
OOIDA Communications director
Poor Ima. She just found out that she’s one of the 9 million Americans who have their identities stolen every year. Every 79 seconds someone’s identity is stolen, and this time she was the one who became a victim of the fastest-growing crime in the nation.
How did this happen? What does anybody want with Ima’s identity? How could she have prevented this whole fiasco?
Thieves can be very skilled at getting hold of your information, particularly if you are the least bit lax about protecting it. Stealing is the name of their game, and your personal identifying information – your name, Social Security number, bank account info and credit card numbers – is their target.
Identity thieves may gain access to your personal information by stealing your wallet or purse. However, they may also steal your mail to find such items as your credit card and bank statements, new credit card offers, and anything else that might contain personal identifying information.
Skilled thieves can also hack into computers to access company records that contain your information, or they can bribe others who have access, such as an unscrupulous employee.
Identity thieves have been known to go through trash dumpsters looking for documents, credit card offers, and old bills that may contain your personal information. They might even resort to something as simple as a change of address form to divert your mail, including your identifying information, to a post office lock box or other location where they can gain access.
More sophisticated methods are sometimes used by thieves for stealing identities, such as skimming credit/debit card numbers with a special storage device whenever your card is processed, or using the phone or computer to impersonate representatives of financial institutions in order to trick you into giving away your personal information – a process known as “phishing.”
Once an identity thief has his hands on your information, it can be used to hurt you in a variety of ways. Most of us know that these crooks can open new credit card accounts under the stolen identity, and run up bills that they will never pay, but did you know that they have also been known to get a job using your Social Security number, or to give your personal information to police during an arrest? You may not find out about it until a company notifies you when the thief tries to collect benefits, or the cop shows up at your door with a warrant for your arrest for missing a court date.
Identity thieves may get a driver’s license in your name with their picture on it, or they might take out a loan in your name. They may open a bank account in your name and write bad checks on it. They could even create counterfeit checks with your name and account number.
If you start getting calls from bill collectors for debts that are overdue on accounts that you weren’t aware existed, or you receive mail about a house you never bought or about a job you didn’t know you had applied for – you’d better not ignore them. This is often how many innocent consumers have discovered that they’ve been victimized.
So now what?
Unfortunately, you can expect weeks, months, and even years of tedious effort attempting to prove that you really are who you claim to be and restoring your good name and reputation. Often this means filing a police report, contacting creditors, disputing any number of unauthorized transactions, constantly monitoring your credit reports, and generally going through identity theft hell.
Even when you think you have done everything possible to clean up the mess and reclaim your identity, you may still be left with lingering feelings that it could happen to you again … and again … and again. The thief might never be caught, and he might have sold your personal information to other thieves who begin the process all over again.
Restoring your good name and credit is a tedious, time-consuming process, and a task that most of us are ill-equipped to attempt. For truckers who must deal with shuffling the ever-increasing amount of paperwork involved with driving a truck, it becomes quickly overwhelming to constantly monitor accounts, check credit reports, make phone contacts to ensure that fraudulent accounts remain closed and any inaccurate information is corrected, including writing multiple letters to follow up.
Awareness is the key. Educate yourself and others on the various ways that thieves can steal and use your identity. Take steps to help ensure that you have done everything possible to protect your personal information and to restore your good name and reputation should you become a victim. LL
If you have questions about doing business as an owner-operator and/or an independent trucker, please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org or send them to P.O. Box 1000, Grain Valley, MO 64029. We can’t publish all of your questions in Land Line, but you will receive a response, even if your letter is not published.