Overview of Topic
For Additional Research
Discussion Group

Published by:
Washington Research Associates, Inc.
Washington, DC        



Get our free WEB SEARCH GUIDES sent to you each week by email! Your email address will NEVER be shared with any third party.

You will receive one new Guide by email each week. Upcoming topics are listed below!

Sponsored Links

Search Topic 10:

Internet Identity Theft

Web Search Guides

by Joseph Ryan, Editor

I. Overview of Topic

Without doubt, the best protection against Internet identity theft (and other types of such theft) is identity theft prevention.

There was an article in USA Today recently about an identity theft ring that got nabbed, thanks to a suspicious WalMart employee.

This ring had hacked into Marshall Department Store's main computer and stolen thousands of credit card numbers. The ring members then traveled throughout Florida using these stolen credit card numbers to charge high-value merchandise at stores like Walmart.

They then sold the merchandise to "fences," or even more brazenly, returned the merchandise to the stores for a cash refund. A WalMart clerk got suspicious and called store security, which contacted police.

So if you've ever shopped at Marshall's you could have found yourself with a credit card bill for many thousands of dollars of merchandise you never purchased. What a headache! True, you wouldn't be legally responsible for those fraudulent purchases, but your credit record would be quite a mess for quite a long time.

Clearly -- despite some recent legislation -- identity theft -- especially Internet identity theft -- is the crime that's probably most likely to happen to you. It's just too easy for crooks to get hold of credit card numbers and social security numbers these days. In this report I'll briefly discuss how identity theft happens, what to do if it happens to you, and also mention a few important self-protection measures.

Definition of Internet Identity Theft

Of course, identity theft doesn't really mean somebody steals your identity and then goes off to a faraway place and lives his/her life impersonating you. It could mean that, but that is extremely rare. Generally, it just means somebody runs up bills using your credit card or credit rating. Sometimes a lot of bills. There have even been cases of identity thieves taking out house mortgages under somebody else's name, then flipping (re-selling) the house.

Types of Identity Thieves

There are two types, namely identity theft rings and individual identity thieves.

Identity theft rings are like little Mafias with a boss and a group of underlings who do the more risky tasks, such as setting up charge accounts and going into retail stores to buy merchandise using phony credit cards. (Many rings manufacture valid-appearing credit cards, or they hire specialists to do it for them.)

Typically identity theft rings utilize hit-and-run tactics, working in a given location for a few months then disappearing.

The other type of identity thief is the individual who is trying to improve his/her standard of living by credit card fraud. Usually, the individual identity thief will not make quite as much of a train-wreck of your credit standing as the identity theft ring, but even so you may find yourself spending many hours trying to fix it.

Naturally, both types of identity thieves -- the rings and the individuals -- tend to target high-income individuals. Anyone with an expensive home, car, or high-paying job is a more-likely target. Unfortunately, your social security number can be almost as easy to get these days as your phone number. All a crook needs is an account with an information broker on the Internet and your name and address. Then, given your social security number and a little additional information like your date of birth (which is also pretty easy to find online), the identity thief can set up all kinds of charge accounts in your name, arranging to have the bills sent to a phony address so that it will take longer for you to catch on to what's happening.

Of course, not all Internet identity theft stems from online information brokers giving out social security numbers. In fact experts say only a small fraction of it does. More often, thieves steal credit card numbers, like the ring that I mentioned above which operated in Florida. On a smaller scale, a thief working as a waiter or clerk may steal your credit card number or possibly your whole purse or wallet.

At any rate, it can escalate from a major nuisance to a major crisis if the identity thief commits a crime while impersonating you, possibly by means of a fake driver's license or other forged document. Should he/she be charged and then fail to appear in court, you could be arrested and charged with the crime or other offense.

What To Do If Internet Identity Theft Happens To You

If you find yourself with bills for merchandise/services you didn't buy, or a call from a merchant complaining about a bill you didn't pay for something you didn't order, you're probably facing identity theft. Here's the process you should follow. (Note: You might also wish to read the FTC's webpage on this topic.)

First, gather as much information as you can from the merchant, such as when the purchase took place, type of credit used (credit line or credit card), account number, monetary amount, where the bills were sent, and if a credit application was filled out (if so, get a copy of it). Explain to the merchant that you've been a victim of identity theft -- use that term, "identity theft" -- and request that he not report the bill to the credit bureau in your name.

Second, call a credit bureau and put a fraud alert on your credit reports. This prevents the identity thief from opening more accounts in your name. You only need to contact one of the three credit bureaus to place an alert, as whichever one you notify will then alert the other two as well. The credit bureaus are:

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian: 1-888-387-3742
Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289

Have the credit bureau representative mail you a copy of your credit report (this should be free). Then go through it carefully and look for fraudulent charges. Close all accounts you think have been tampered with and write a letter to those merchants explaining that you have been a victim of identity theft. (Note: don't mail the letters yet; you should enclose a copy of your police report; see below.)

Third, take your credit report to your local police department and file a formal police report. Keep this report with you in case you ever find yourself charged with a crime committed by the identity thief. By the way, if your local police department tells you they don't accept reports for identity theft tell them you wish to file a "Miscellaneous Incidents" report. Alternatively you can file your report with the State Police.

Fourth, visit your local Department of Motor Vehicles and inform them that you have been a victim of identity theft or. Ask to obtain a new drivers license with a new drivers license number.

Fifth, attempt to determine if there are any currently pending civil or criminal actions against you. I suggest using online service US as a quick, reliable source for this type of information. If you do find court judgments against you write a letter to the court explaining that you have been victimized by an identity thief (enclosing a copy of your police report) and ask that the judgment be vacated.

Sixth, contact the U.S. State Department (again, including a copy of your police report) and request that they confirm that a passport has not been recently issued in your name. If one has, ask that it be canceled immediately. The address to write to is:

U.S. State Department Attn: Passport Services

1111 19th St., NW, Ste. 500
Washington DC 20522

Identity Theft Prevention

Unfortunately, there's no surefire way to completely protect yourself against identity theft -- 100% identity theft prevention doesn't exist -- but there are some things you can do to make it less likely you'll be targeted.

  1. -Make your social security number a little harder for identity thieves to obtain. As said, identity thieves can easily obtain your SSN if they know your name and address. So why not make it harder for them to get your address in the first place? You can do this by using a post office box number on all credit applications and other types of forms which will become public information, such as registration records.

  2. -Also, try to keep your telephone number out of general circulation. Why? Because once somebody knows your phone number, they can use a "reverse directory" on the Internet to easily obtain your home address.

  3. -Use personal checks only for by-mail bill paying, never for day-to-day, in-person purchases. Your personal checks contain identifying information about your bank account plus your personal signature. It's much safer to use a credit card or debit card.

  4. -Get removed from "pre-screening" programs (marketing services offered by the three credit bureaus). Whenever you get a credit card offer in the mail, for example, it's because your name and address appeared on a pre-screening list, which contains only credit-worthy individuals. But these lists are commonly used by identity theft rings to target potential victims. To be removed from such lists of all major credit bureaus, call 888-567-8688 and inform the clerk that you wish to be removed from all pre-screening programs.

That's it - our ten minutes are up! (OK, maybe twelve or thirteen.) Below is a listing of Web resources to help you continue your research on Internet identity theft.

II. For Additional Research

This Section provides reviews and recommendations of Web sites and other online resources


If there's ever been a time to spend a few dollars a month on an Internet identity theft prevention service, this is the time. There are now numerous such services available online, however, the one that stands out as offering the best protection (and also, oddly enough, has the lowest cost) is TrustedID. This company, TrustedID, offers a very comprehensive array of identity-theft prevention services -- you get a lot more for your money here, in my opinion, than with competing services, such as those offered by Equifax and TransUnion (which are basically just credit-report monitoring services). TrustedID , through its flagship product IDFreeze, gives you --

- Lender Double Check, which tells credit granters to double check your identity via telephone or mail before granting credit in your name. (You can turn this on or off at will.)

- Credit Lock, which allows you to direct the three credit bureaus to only release their credit reports to third parties with your permission.

- Credit Card Monitoring, which monitors your credit card numbers to ensure your information has not been stolen.

- Credit Card Opt out, which removes your name from credit bureau marketing databases.

- $1,000,000 Identity Protection Insurance, which provides up to $1,000,000 of insurance to cover out-of-pocket costs associated with identity theft (not available in New York).

- Live Identity Restoration Specialists, which provides real people you can talk to and get advice from if you become a victim of identity theft.

- Credit Report Evaluation, which reviews your credit history to ensure your identity has not been stolen.

The cost is $12.95 a month and it seems like a good deal to me. I've signed up for it myself. To learn more go to the IDFreeze webpage.

Related Web Search Guides
Other Web Search Guides you may find useful:
Criminal Records
Asset Search

Recommended Reading


III.Discussion Group


Have questions or thoughts to share regarding Internet identity theft? Visit our Web Search Guides Discussion Group.

To suggest a Guide topic or to contact Joseph Ryan, Editor, click here.       


Disclaimer Statement. Web Search Guides is a service of Washington Research Associates, Inc. All information presented is for information purposes only and isn't intended to provide professional or legal advice. Advertisements are presented for information or marketing purposes only and Washington Research Associates Inc. makes no representations for any products or services that are promoted and accepts no responsibility for any actions or consequences that occur as a result of any purchases from advertisers.


Here are hundreds of online portals and directories to help you quickly and easily research the Web!
Click here.


Upcoming Web Search Guides:

Tax Software
Freeware and Shareware
Internet Security
Identity Theft
Blogging and Social Networking
News and Opinion
Games Online
Free Web Tools
Business Background Checks
Evaluating Doctors and Dentists
Online Medical Information
Government Guide
Buying Autos Online
Phone Services
Investment Sites
Phishing and Scams
Evaluating Nursing Homes
Summer Camps for Kids
The Hidden Web
Travel Info and Reservations
Evaluating Lawyers
Website Marketing
Genealogy Research
Starting an Online Business

Click here to suggest a topic.


Washington Research Associates, Inc
1250 Connecticut Ave., NW, Ste. 200
Washington, DC 20036

Email Us



(c) 2008 All Rights Reserved

10-Minute Web Search Guides - Copyright 2008 - Site Designs by PWA