Identity theft is on the rise

Identity theft, Rolla Area Chamber of Commerce members were told Wednesday, is the largest white-collar crime in the country.

John C. Venezia, an independent associate with Pre-paid Legal Services at 1028 S. Bishop Ave. in Rolla, offered a PowerPoint presentation to RRAC members during their monthly luncheon at Zeno’s Steak House.

“Identity theft is the No. 1 white-collar crime in America,” Venezia said. “And the problem is getting worse rather than better.

“Information is not obtained from your mailbox or kitchen trash anymore. It’s gotten through databases (hacked) at your doctor or chiropractor,” Venezia said.

Venezia started by explaining identity theft, its cost, important legislation to safeguard against it, industry responses, the best answers and steps to minimizing its damage.

“When you talk of identity theft, people think mostly of financial identity theft,” Venezia said. “Certainly, that is the one of the more common, but there is also identity theft of drivers license, Social Security, medical and character/criminal theft, too.”

Venezia explained the implications of being a victim of medical identity theft is expensive, paying for care received by someone else, but it can also alter your own medical records, he said.

“Besides the added expense, you could have your medical records changed, and that’s not only hard to correct, but it can be dangerous,” he said.

In Social Security ID theft, Venezia said most often the victim never receives the benefits but is left responsible for paying the taxes on those benefits.

Theft of the identity of a drivers license could mean suspension of licenses for various infractions from driving under the influence or even license revocation, Venezia said.

Character/criminal identity theft can leave the victim with hefty legal bills as they try to prove their innocence from behind bars, not an easy task, Venezia said.

“There was one case, in 2005, where a teacher lost her job as she was wrongly charged with prostitution. They proved it was a case of identity theft, but the school district said it just became too much of a hassle (to deal with it), and they let the teacher go,” Venezia said.

He said much of the problem is “the database you.”

“Identity theft affects seven to 10 million Americans every year. This ranges from (security computer breaches of) massive data brokerage firms to tiny local banks, your identity is irretrievably out there,” he said.

The cost of identity theft to individuals, Venezia said, is:

$92,893, the average dollar theft amount;

74.6, the average number of checks written;

8.4, the average number of credit card applications approved through identity theft.

Venezia said laws hold victims partially responsible for fraudulent debt after 48 hours and hold them fully responsible if not reported within 60 days.

“That’s why is so important to really read your credit card statements,” Venezia said. “After 60 days, the debt becomes your’s.”

Venezia reiterated he “is not selling anything, but if people want to talk about identity theft protection,” his firm is capable

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