How hard is it to steal someone’s identity?  Ask anyone who has had their identity stolen, and they will likely say, “Not hard enough.”  According to today’s fraud in the Associated Press, it can happen to anyone – even allegedly to one of the world’s richest men.

The article reports that a Pennsylvania man is in “federal custody” facing allegations that he “changed the address on a bank account held by billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, then had a debit card sent to his Pittsburgh home so he could use it for payments on a delinquent bank account and personal expenses.”  (Go big or go home!)  According to the complaint, investigators discovered that the man “was listed as Absent Without Leave from the Army and wanted as a deserter.”  (AWOL?  No, he was SWAC:  shopping with another’s card.)

The man allegedly tried to make $15,936.99 in fraudulent transactions, including a $15,000 wire transfer, a $658.81 payment on a bank loan, and miscellaneous purchases at local stores.  The complaint says the only payment that was successful was the bank loan.  “The fraud was detected by the bank, who alerted law enforcement officials.”

So, “Fraud of the Day” usually focuses on fraud in government programs, why talk about this case?  Because identity theft is tracked by the government.  The article notes that “just under 280,000 cases of identity theft were reported in 2011, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.  That includes complaints through the Better Business Bureau and state attorney general offices and other law enforcement agencies.”  (What that doesn’t include are all the identities of the deceased, as well as kids’ identities that have been stolen and not yet discovered.  It’s a lot deeper than this!)

The takeaway here is simple:  an identity can be stolen in any number of ways – through a phone call, by stealing records in a medical office or tracking down personal information via the Internet…to name a few.  Once an identity thief has your information, he or she probably will use it to commit fraud by stealing bank info, applying for a credit card in your name or stealing government benefits.  It really can happen to anyone.

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