Identity Theft: A White Collar Crime

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Identity Theft

In today's society, there is a white-collar crime that has greatly risen in popularity among criminals. This crime is identity theft. Hundreds of thousands of people have their identities stolen each year. Identity theft is when these criminals obtain and use consumers personal information such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers, insurance information, and social security numbers to purchase goods or services fraudulently. According to the Federal Trade Commission, over 1.1 million people were the victim of identity theft. With this number, it is very evident that identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in our country. This paper will attempt to more thoroughly define identity theft. It will give examples of identity theft by examining the stories of Rosalie Pugliese and Mari Frank. It will show ways in which this very easily committed crime can be avoided, and in the extreme case that a person is a victim of identity fraud, to show the steps one can take to get their lives back on track.

According to identityguard.com, identity theft is defined as, "when someone uses your name or personal information to open a credit account, take out a loan, or make a major purchase. And if they can do it once, they can do it repeatedly, using each new account as a reference for the next one. The result is that identity thieves can run up thousands of dollars worth of charges or obligations all in your name." In our current society, since there have been a great deal of technological advances made, it is easier than ever for a common criminal to steal a social security number, a bank account number, or any other piece of information which could help a criminal gain access to ones personal finances. Identity thieves can retrieve vital information in many different ways. They can look through your trash at home or at work and retrieve a discarded bill, a piece of mail, or a credit application. They can intercept your mail before it reaches you and take your social security or other information off of it. Identity thieves can pose as a telemarketer, claiming to represent a reputable charity or business, a bank, or even a credit-reporting agency. By doing this, they may be able to coax vital information from a naïve consumer. "In some states your Social Security number is printed right on your driver's license, so an identity thief can write down your number when you use your license for identification."1 While there was a time when thieves mainly rummaged through discarded mail and trash to attain valuable information, it is just as easy for them now to steal one's identity using the Internet. As one can see, stealing someone's identity is a very easy thing and can also be done in a number of different ways.

In 1999, an unsuspecting attorney by the name of Rosalie Pugliese was a victim of identity theft. Over a six-week period, not only did the thief run up over sixty-thousand dollars worth of goods and steal credit cards, but also the thief went on to impersonate her victim. In the Post-Gazette on August 26, 1999, staff writer Cristina Rouvalis wrote, "The fraudulent purchases trickled in at first -- a $2,700 bill on a First Union credit card and a $18.74 AT&T cell phone bill in mid-December. Pugliese canceled both accounts -- which she had never even applied for -- and dismissed them as the work of a petty thief doing Christmas shopping on her dime." The bills included an $8,000 cash advance at Atlantic City casinos, six thousand dollars worth of jewelry, and a seven thousand dollar Compaq laptop computer, just to name a few. This particular identity thief went above and beyond what most identity thieves do though. "As investigators would soon discover, Pugliese's evil twin didn't just steal her name to rack up about $60,000 in debt. She stole her whole appearance, they said. She fixed her hair like Pugliese's -- a medium-length blond cut -- and sometimes tied a crisp...
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