How Does Identity Theft Happen?

Apr 24, 2015
Activity, Identity Theft, Current Events

Funny, you should ask.  I thought it would be interesting to look at news stories in the last week and see the myriad way that criminals are stealing identities.  This could also make for a good WebQuest for your students and help them see the importance of protecting their identity.

Here goes:

Five people were arrested on charges related to operating an identity theft ring after stealing checks and credit cards from residents’ mailboxes, according to the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office.  Investigators were alerted to the alleged operations on April 20 when a local retailer reported an individual trying to buy high-priced electronics with suspicious credit cards. They found that two men used a credit card in a woman’s name to buy a 50-inch television for $513.

  • Filing false tax refunds using other people’s identities (Austin Statesman):

The three were said to have filed at least $1.3 million in false claims through TurboTax from 2010 to 2012, using identities taken from job applicants at a Wendy’s restaurant in Chicago, where Powell had previously been employed as a manager, according to court documents filed in a U.S. district court in Austin.

  • Rummaging through junked vehicles (who would have thunk it?; from Fox San Antonio):

Fox San Antonio picked a salvage yard at random after the station received a tip about people leaving personal documents in junked vehicles. Wolf wanted to see what would turn up on a search of vehicles.  He checked glove compartments, center consoles, trunks and under the seats. It took just a matter of minutes for key information to turn up.

A W-2 Tax form was discovered right on the front seat of a gold colored 2000 Mitsubishi Galant. The document listed the person’s name, social security number and address. The same vehicle also had court documents with a date of birth and driver’s license number listed on the paperwork.

  • Housecleaning staff stealing credit cards (a bit of an embarrassment for the FBI agent; from

Going through training in one of the most secure environments in the country, Lear himself became a victim of identity theft. A member of the house cleaning staff had stolen his credit card out of his wallet and gone on a shopping spree overseas.  “If it can happen to an FBI employee, it can happen to anybody,” he said.

See what your students can come up with…


Want more on identity theft?  Check out our lesson on Scams, Fraud and ID Theft!

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.

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