The charismatic forger immortalized in Catch Me If You Can exposes the astonishing tactics of today’s identity theft criminals and offers powerful strategies to thwart them based on his second career as an acclaimed fraud-fighting consultant.
When Frank Abagnale trains law enforcement officers around the country about identity theft, he asks officers for their names and addresses and nothing more. In a matter of hours he can obtain everything he would need to steal their lives: Social Security numbers, dates of birth, current salaries, checking account numbers, the names of everyone in their families, and more. This illustrates how easy it is for anyone from anywhere in the world to assume our identities and in a matter of hours devastate our lives in ways that can take years to recover from. Considering that a fresh victim is hit every four seconds, Stealing Your Life is the reference everyone needs by an unsurpassed authority on the latest identity theft schemes.
Consider these sobering facts:
• Six out of ten American companies and government agencies have already been hacked.
• An estimated 80 percent of birth certificate requests are fulfilled through the mail for people using only a name and a return address.
• Americans write 39 billion checks a year, and half of them never reconcile their bank statements.
• A Social Security number costs $49 on the black market. A driver’s license goes for $90. A birth certificate will set you back $79.
Abagnale offers dozens of concrete steps to transform anyone from an easy mark into a hard case that criminals are likely to bypass:
• Don’t allow your kids to use the computer on which you do online banking and store financial records (children are apt to download games and attachments that host damaging viruses or attract spyware).
• Beware of offers that appeal to greed or fear in exchange for personal data.
• Monitor your credit report regularly and know if anyone’s been “knocking on your door.”
• Read privacy statements carefully and choose to opt out of sharing information whenever possible.
Brimming with anecdotes of creative criminality that are as entertaining as they are enlightening, Stealing Your Life is the practical way to shield yourself from one of today’s most nefarious and common crimes.
Offering spine-tingling terror for anyone who has a Social Security number and birth date, counterfeiting expert Abagnale (author of Catch Me if You Can a memoir detailing his former life in crime) chronicles the means and aftereffects of identity theft. Studded with alarming case histories, the first half of the book reads like a how-to for would-be thieves, offering a closeup look at financial and criminal fraud and Americans' particular vulnerability to it. By page 100, many readers will be willing to do anything to prevent a future fraud against them. Fortunately, Abagnale supplies a 20-step prevention plan in the second half, including basic tips such as regularly checking your credit report, using a shredder and avoiding questionable Internet sites and ATMs. For those unlucky enough to be victimized, he offers step-by-step instructions on filing a police report and contacting the Fair Trade Commission. Above all, this heart-pounding guide drives home the point that identity theft can come from any direction at any time to anyone whether a careless credit card user, diehard check-writer, "cash-only" buyer or even the deceased.