Identity Theft

The Woman Who Stole 700 Identities

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A Florida woman who stole more than 700 identities was sentenced to five years and 10 months in federal prison, the Florida Sun-Sentinel reported last week. Earlier this year, Tia Lashonda Miller, 39, pleaded guilty to unlawful possession and aggravated identity theft.

Police caught on to Miller’s escapades in 2012, when she was arrested for using a credit card not in her name and breaking into cars at a shopping mall. They found a notebook full of what turned out to be others’ credit card and personal information, setting off an Internal Revenue Service investigation.

Miller and two others filled such notebooks after breaking into people’s cars and mailboxes, stealing credit cards and mail, and recorded victims’ names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers, said a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida. The scheme, which involved 726 victims, largely fueled tax return fraud, though the amount she may have received through fraudulent tax returns wasn’t specified.

Miller’s identity theft tactics required a lot of legwork and only affected a small geographic area, but her story doesn’t diminish the threat of having your data or possessions stolen in public places. Other than taking common-sense approaches like shredding sensitive information, locking your car and checking your mail daily, there’s often not much you can do to avoid falling victim to an identity thief.

Your best shot at protecting your assets is to check your financial statements and credit standing often, because sudden or unexpected shifts in your data can indicate you’re a victim of fraud. Mobile banking makes it easy and accessible to stay on top of your transaction history, and tools like free annual credit reports and scores give you another point of reference for knowing you’re in control of your money and identity. You can get your free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com, and you can see two of your credit scores for free through Credit.com.

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Image: TimArbaev

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