Police in Miami found a car matching the description of one involved in a robbery. The suspect got out of the car and ran, but was ultimately caught and arrested. Now imagine if that robber was using your identity.
That’s the exact scenario former NFL running back Najeh Davenport faced earlier this month. The suspect turned out to be a man named Damian Coleman. He showed police Davenport’s driver’s license, and several media outlets, including NBC, initially reported Davenport had been arrested, only to learn later his identity had been stolen.
Identity theft can happen to anyone at any time. An equally serious problem is the increase in scam artists pretending to be someone else online.
This form of identity scamming drew national attention earlier this year when it was revealed ex-Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o had been duped into an online relationship with a girl named Lennay Kekua. Te’o never met Kekua in person; it ultimately turned out she never existed. Te’o became a media darling for playing in Kekua’s memory after she supposedly died during his senior season. Time Magazine noted he suffered major national embarrassment when Deadspin broke the story of the hoax.
Identity theft can cause serious damage to a person’s life. A victim can have their credit destroyed by a scam artist who opens credit accounts and loans using their personal information. Even children can find themselves the targets of identity theft. The Huffington Post reported that 10 percent of children nationally have had their social security numbers stolen and used for fraudulent purposes.
Online impersonations are becoming just as prevalent. Some impersonators have created phony social media pages to spread harmful or embarrassing information about victims. Others have used social media accounts to run illegal scams on victims.
Laws against online impersonation are starting to hit the books around the country. Texas became one of the first states to enact laws against online impersonation in 2011. According to Decoded Science, online impersonation is a third-degree felony in Texas and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. About a dozen other states have adopted similar laws making online impersonation illegal over the past two years, including New York, California and Washington.
You literally can’t afford the damage identity theft or impersonation will do to both your credit and reputation. Keep a record of all your financial transactions. If you see a fraudulent transaction pop up, contact local police immediately and notify the three major credit bureaus. Another important step is to sign up for identity theft protection through a company such as LifeLock. A person who enlists these services will be notified whenever someone tries to use stolen personal information such as social security numbers or bank account numbers.
Take every measure possible to protect your personal information. Nothing can guarantee identity theft prevention, but there’s plenty you can do to maximize protection.