How Bad Is the Identity Theft Problem?

Armed robberies, car jackings and break-ins are serious crimes usually committed by a limited number of people. Identity theft is in a class by itself. A single individual can launch any number of attacks at anytime from anywhere and against virtually anyone.

The stealing of a person’s confidential information is a major national and international problem. One of the best (and most recent) resources describing the scope of the problem in the United States is a “lagging” Special Report produced by the Bureau of Justice Statistics entitled, “Victims of Identity Theft, 2008”.

More than 11.7 million people were affected by ID theft in the two year reporting period covered by the Department of Justice. The most commonly crime related to a person’s confidential information was illegal purchases having been made on the existing credit card accounts of victims. One of the more surprising facts is that nearly forty percent (40%) of the illicit credit card fraud is committed by someone who is known to the victim.

More than half of the victims of identity theft suffered fraud against their accounts that totaled more than 17 billion dollars in the two-year time period covered by the BJS report. Current law and practices, fortunately, help protect consumers who detect the identity theft early and move to fight it. Doing so makes it easier to prevent additional losses.

A relatively small percentage of victims, seventeen percent (17%), actually report an identity theft crime to law enforcement. This basic fact is surprising because to assure the maximum amount of consumer protection that the law provides, an identity theft victim must file a criminal report with a law enforcement agency and an Identity Theft Complaint form with the FTC.

Twenty three percent (23%) of identity theft victims suffered out-of-pocket expenses that averaged $788.00 per victim. The damages caused to the credit ratings of victims and the time lost in unraveling the fraud are difficult to measure. The obvious stress and inconvenience are also hard to determine. The effects of an identity theft crime against a victim tend to last for a while and disrupt the victim’s life.

The majority of the fraud perpetrated against individuals (53%) was committed against existing credit card accounts. The remainder of incidents was directed against bank accounts, telephone, insurance or online fraud. Thirty percent (30%) of the victims knew the identity thief.

Among the reasons that identity theft is prevalent is that it is relatively low-risk for the criminal. The actual crime(s) may already have been committed by the time the victim discovers the fraud. Complicating matters is that only a small amount of victims report the crime to law enforcement agencies as pointed out previously. Worse yet, a number of local law enforcement agencies across the country refuse to receive a criminal report related to identity theft. Those agencies are virtual havens in which identity thieves can set up “virtual dead drops” for stolen merchandise being delivered.

The burden of preventing ID theft is basically left on the shoulders of the individual citizen and private industry. The identity thieves know it and they look for vulnerabilities and opportunities. You can help deter identity theft by being vigilant with your personal digital profile and by reporting any identity theft fraud perpetrated against you. If your local law enforcement agency refuses to allow you to file a criminal report, insist upon filing a miscellaneous crime report.

The New Identify Theft – Medical Fraud

Identity theft is a very big problem and growing larger daily. Most people are concerned about credit card theft and use of debit cards. However there is an even bigger problem; medical-related fraud.

Any type of identity theft usually ruins your credit rating and makes you liable for large bills that you didn’t create. You get caught up in a web of false information that will plague you financially and medically for years to come.

Medical theft causes even more problems. If someone steals your medial insurance cards and goes to the doctor or hospital, receives services, maybe even surgery, they have created a huge problem for you.

One: You don’t find out until later, usually when the bill gets turned over to collection agency that you own a huge hospital and/or doctor bill.

Two: Your credit report takes a devastating hit.

Three: Your medical history is now altered; this can affect future insurance premiums.

Four: Whatever procedure, or diagnosis they received are now part of your medical history.

Five: Your insurance benefits may be maxed out, meaning that when you need medical care or surgery you may find that you are uninsured.

Six: You may experience being refused insurance because of pre-existing conditions you don’t have

Seven: You may at risk for inaccurate treatments because another person’s allergies, and medications may be listed on your medical records.

How to Defend Yourself:

  • The best way to defend yourself is do take steps to prevent medical identity theft in the first place.
  • Take care of your insurance card. Guard it the same as you do your identification card, credit and debit cards
  • Examine every Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statements that you get. Verify that each doctor and test are ones that you actually received. Also since the thief may use a false address be sure to ask for a summary of your EOB’s at the end of each year.
  • Check your credit reports regularly
  • Stay away from free health fairs or screenings, if they ask for your insurance information.

What to Do If Suspect a Crime:

  • Act Fast
  • Request a copy of your medical records-even if you have to pay for them
  • Do not mention the possibility of Fraud to your doctor. If it gets put on the record that your information is mixed up with another person’s information, privacy law will come into play. This means that your records will be kept confidential, even to you.
  • If you confirm fraud tell the authorities.
  • Call 1-877-IDTHEFT to report the situation.

In summary, guard your insurance information carefully, treat Identity Theft as seriously as it is.

The Differences Between Theft and Robbery

Colloquially, robbery and theft are often referred to as if they were more or less the same thing. A robber and a thief both take things that are not theirs, and thus these words can be used interchangeably most of the time. Legally, however, robbery and theft are different crimes with very different punishments. Let’s look at these laws in more detail.

Theft

This is actually a broad term referring to any occurrence when a piece of property is taken without its owner’s permission. It is usually classified as a crime against property, along with property damage and arson. Theft is prosecuted on the state level, with a few exceptions. Because Congress has the constitutional right to control interstate commerce, which has been interpreted very broadly over the years, some acts of theft that affect the interstate economy can be tried on the federal level.

In the US, most state governments use the term larceny in their criminal code because it is more specific. The word “theft” can cover looting, robbery, mugging, shoplifting and a wide variety of other offenses. Larceny, on the other hand, refers to the very specific act of physically moving an object that belongs to someone else, without their permission, and with the intent to deprive the person of that object permanently. It does not matter if the person committing larceny intends to keep the object for their self, but it does matter if they are only temporarily borrowing the object.

Larceny can be a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the total monetary value of whatever objects were stolen. In Wisconsin, for example, stealing objects or money worth up to $500 is a misdemeanor. Any amount more than that is a felony, with the class increasing with the value of the stolen property.

Robbery

Legally, this term refers to the act of taking property away from its owner through the use of violence or intimidation. Unlike theft, the owner of the property must be present as it’s being taken, or else the crime does not qualify as robbery. This crime is always a felony, although the class varies depending on the amount and type of force used.

If a person physically assaults or threatens another without using any kind of weapon in order to steal anything, this is a Class E felony, and can be punished by up to 15 years in prison. Additional years may be added if the convicted person is a repeat offender. A person who steals property while using a dangerous weapon, such as a gun, has committed a Class C felony, punishable by up to 40 years in prison. Again, more years can be added for prior convictions.

For more information about the legal distinctions between different crimes, contact Milwaukee theft defense attorneys Kohler & Hart.

Vigilante Justice – When the Law Fails

People take the law for granted, until it fails. We assume that the man who steals our car or breaks into our house will be prosecuted and punished. What happens when that assumption is no longer valid? When the law fails to protect the citizens and punish the lawbreakers?
The small town of Skidmore, Missouri found out on July 10, 1981, when Ken Rex McElroy was shot to death as he sat in his pickup on the main street of town. McElroy had waged a twenty-year reign of terror over all of northwest Missouri, getting away with almost every crime in the book: rape, arson, kidnapping, burglary, theft, assault, you name it. The law seemed powerless to stop him; witnesses changed their stories; judges recused themselves from his cases; prosecutors dismissed indictments; the town marshal resigned.

I told the story of McElroy’s reign of terror, his shooting, and the ensuing silence by the numerous witnesses to the murder in the book In Broad Daylight, which was published by HarperCollins in 1989, and which won an Edgar Award for Best True Crime and was made into a movie starring Brian Denehey. I revisited the story in a twenty-five year anniversary edition of the book published by St. Martins Press in December 2006. This edition contains startling new information on the killing and the identity of the killers.

It is not surprising that after all this time the witnesses to the killing still have not talked about what they saw that hot July morning. You might hear them say something like “McElroy needed killing,” and what they mean is that the town believed it had no choice but to take the law into its own hands. In their view, the town had returned to the lawlessness of the frontier days, when individuals undertook their own protection at the end of a barrel. Indeed, McElroy was stalking, with a weapon, several witnesses who were scheduled to testify against him in a bond revocation hearing the next week.

You can argue whether what happened that day was morally right or wrong. On Larry King Live, King opined that taking a life outside the law was never the right thing to do. Others argue that it should have happened long before it did.

Behind the discussion is a very basic principle of civilized society, a contract between the government and its citizens: you give up the right to enforce the law and punish lawbreakers in exchange for the government’s promise to do it for you. Put your weapons away and the government–in the form of the criminal justice system–will protect you.

In general, when one party fails to a contract fails to live up to his obligations the other party is released from his promise. If the government cannot protect me, I am entitled to protect myself. If the law t cannot protect the town, the town is entitled to protect itself, to “take the law into its own hands,” as the saying goes. It’s a scary notion in many ways, and it certainly sets a dangerous precedent, in effect allowing individual citizens to decide when they are entitled to engage in “self help.”

One of the most intriguing aspects of the story was the very fragile nature of what we call law and order. We might think that the criminal justice system is rooted in reality through law and courts and cops; the fact is, the criminal justice system is rooted in perception. Once the people no longer believe that it works, it no longer works. If witnesses no longer believe the law can protect them, that it can catch and punish the lawbreakers, they won’t come forward to testify. Cops won’t put their lives on the line. Citizens won’t go to their neighbors’ aid.
In the last few weeks of his life, McElroy had reduced the town of Skidmore to a community where it was every man for himself. When McElroy fired his shotgun over a house in the middle of the night, the neighbors turned away. McElroy, of course, finally pushed the town to far. When the people, with good reason, lost their faith in the system, when they felt exposed and vulnerable to the raging of a violent sociopath, they undertook to solve the problem themselves, they exercised the fundamental right of self-protection.

If there is a lesson to be learned in this cautionary tale, it’s that the criminal justice system in the end is about protecting the citizens and when the citizens fail to perceive that the system is doing its job the descent into lawlessness is rapid and certain.

Credit Repair Law – When Ever Identity Theft Strikes

Credit repair law is usually a highly important topic for most individuals to be aware of, specially those who have happen to be victimized via identity theft. Identity theft is actually a crime in which just one person or even a team of people steal some other individual’s identification for their very own financial gain. These people might get out loans in this individual’s name and / or steal significant data files off their particular pc. Identity theft is definitely a terrifying crime as well as it happens all around the entire world.

Men and women seriously need to figure out just how problematic a crime this specific is, and also if you’re at any time made a victim of identity theft you’re going to need to understand regarding credit repair law. Credit repair law is usually the law referred to which will requires precisely what happens to the perpetrator and victim of the particular crime. It determines exactly what happens to the criminal of the crime and even the victim. You might want to get started with the help of a credit repair specialist, a pro who’s going to be able to appropriately assess your current situation.

Recently there will be a very few things you could do on your own that may help you restore your credit score. This is going to take time for the reason that unfortunately there is no miraculous spell which may get it back quickly for you. Specially considering a few victims of identity theft have been taken for thousands and thousands of bucks, this particular can be some thing that you’re going to need to work at. Just ensure that you communicate to each and every one of your debtors.

You would like to let them know that you’re a victim of identity theft as well as that the particular financial debt racked up was definitely not even by you. Even while you are still going to owe this money, at least they are much more likely to be lenient with you if these people know that you just have really been a victim of this sort of a horrible criminal offenses. They will be going to be much more lenient and understanding if ever they will know you’ve been a victim of this nasty criminal offense. Debt consolidation loans can even be very helpful, to get all your debtors paid off after which you only have a unique credit to be concerned about each and every 30 days.

This loan will take on just about all of all the various debts you owe and consolidate all of them down into a single loan. This can be incredibly difficult to have to go through however at least you realize you can certainly restore your credit scores and finally have got it back wherever it had been to begin with. Then you will be able to focus much more on your financial situation and also making sure that you’re promptly with payments. Its essential to possess good credit and even immediately after going through a horrifying criminal offense like identity theft you have to have to try and so get back again on good track.