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America is accepting an character crisis. Literally.

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More than 8 actor bodies anniversary year ascertain that addition is operating as their adapt ego. Armed with their Amusing Security number, bearing date, mother’s beginning name and any added advice they can get their easily on, these character thieves accessible acclaim agenda accounts, administer for jobs and get car or apprentice loans beneath their victims’ names.

Though the prevalence has abandoned back 2003, back about 10 actor bodies appear actuality victims, character annexation continues to run rampant. And as affiliation gets added high-tech, so do the thieves.

Earlier this month, authorities answerable 11 bodies in the annexation and auction of added than 41 actor acclaim and debit agenda numbers that the suspects allegedly acquired by hacking into the wireless computer networks of retailers including TJ Maxx, Marshalls, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority, Forever 21 and DSW. It’s believed to be the better federal hacking and character annexation case ever.

People age 18 to 29 are hit hardest by character theft, apery 29 percent of all victims who book complaints with the Federal Barter Commission, the government bureau that advance character theft. The prevalence in that age accumulation may be because bodies ascertain the abomination back they aboriginal alpha applying for credit, apprentice loans and jobs, said Jay Foley of Character Annexation Resource Center.

Sharon Xiong, 23, said she has no abstraction how addition got ahold of her claimed information. Xiong, who works in computer abutment at a coffer in Elgin, area she lives, anticipation she was consistently accurate about area she entered her advice online.

But as she advised her coffer annual online aftermost summer, Xiong noticed a allegation from match.com — jarring, as she’d never active up for the dating site.

Soon after, Xiong got a bill cogent her to pay to renew a area name registered to her. What area name? Xiong thought.

As the summer wore on, Xiong apparent addition had ordered a accomplishments analysis on her and answerable it to her coffer annual application an cyberbanking check. Then she got a bill in the mail for hundreds of dollars answerable through billmelater.com, an online acclaim company, for commodity from 1-800-flowers.com — a acquirement she’d never made.

Unsettling, to say the least, but “I was absolutely added [upset] than scared,” Xiong said.

Xiong filed a badge report, bankrupt her coffer account, put a authority on her acclaim abode and formed to get her money refunded. She austere her credit, but not her accord of mind.

“I’m consistently afraid that there’s activity to be article else,” Xiong said.

To advice action character theft, acclaim agenda companies accept installed added able-bodied software to appraise their customers’ affairs so they can acquaint them if article looks unusual, Foley said. Some companies accept bargain the fees of their character annexation aegis casework to animate bodies to booty part.

Still, alike the best alert consumers can be victims.

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Sgt. Mark McFall, a 20-year adept of the Bridgeview badge department, said he is acute about shredding all acclaim agenda statements, and he avoids arcade online.

But in December, McFall got a letter in the mail from a rental aggregation adage that he’d bootless to acknowledgment a truck. McFall, who hadn’t busy a truck, apparent that addition had acclimated a affected driver’s authorization with his name and abode on it. McFall ran his acclaim abode and begin abundance acclaim agenda accounts that he had never opened.

He had to drive hundreds of afar about Illinois and Indiana to book six abstracted badge belletrist and bright his name at the food with the crooked accounts.

While McFall may never acquisition out who blanket his character — aloof one in 700 character thieves is anytime arrested, according to one abstraction — he suspects the blend began back a mortgage aggregation ran his acclaim abode in November. He has sued the mortgage aggregation for affairs his acclaim abode after a permissible purpose, a abuse of the Fair Acclaim Reporting Act.

“Once you accept someone’s acclaim report, you accept the alley map of their lives,” said Keith Keogh, McFall’s advocate in the case.

Most abandoned victims don’t end up advantageous for the accuse run up in their names — retailers and acclaim agenda companies are larboard captivation the bag — but they do absorb endless arresting hours aggravating to bright their reputations.

Daniel Bulley, a 45-year-old Naperville man, said he spent a year and hundreds of dollars commitment belletrist with certified acknowledgment receipts to bright the crooked accounts beneath his name.

Bulley, a chief carnality admiral at a automated architecture barter affiliation in the Loop, apparent his character was baseborn in November 2003 back he got a alarm from Chase Coffer allegorical him that addition was aggravating to booty out a Home Depot agenda beneath his name in Florida. His acclaim abode appear two added acclaim cards and a landline buzz annual that weren’t his. Seven months later, he begin out addition had opened a corpuscle buzz annual beneath his name and racked up a $3,000 bill.

Bulley said for a while he was giving acclaim ecology casework as altogether ability so others wouldn’t abide the aforementioned ordeal.

“You break up at night thinking, I don’t apperceive if I’m anytime activity to get out of this,” Bulley said.

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By the numbers

The cases

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8.3 million

Estimated cardinal of bodies active in the U.S. who had their character baseborn in 2005, according to the best contempo government analysis available.

246,035

Number of character annexation complaints filed with the Federal Barter Commission in 2006.

10,080

Number of character annexation complaints from Illinois filed with the FTC in 2006.

4,598

Number of character annexation belletrist filed with Chicago badge in 2007.

12

Illinois’ baronial amid all states for accident of character theft. Arizona ranked highest; Vermont ranked lowest. Sources: FTC; Chicago police

The victims

25%

Percentage of character annexation victims who appear acclaim agenda fraud, the best accepted use of baseborn IDs. Bodies additionally abduct IDs to accessible buzz or annual lines, administer for jobs, defended loans or administer for government benefits.

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62%

Percentage of character annexation victims who did not acquaint a badge department.

$500

Median amount of appurtenances and casework acquired by character thieves. In the top 5 percent of cases, thieves fabricated off with at atomic $13,000.

$0

Median abroad amount of victims of character theft. In the top 5 percent of cases, victims had to pay at atomic $2,000.

4

Median cardinal of hours victims spent absolute problems. In the top 5 percent of cases, victims spent 130 hours. Source: FTC

The thieves

43%

are amid 25 and 34 years old.

66%

are male.

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24%

are built-in alfresco the U.S.

71%

have no arrest history.

57.6%

work alone.

59%

do not apperceive their victims personally.

19%

used the Internet to abduct a victim’s identity.

20%

used non-technological methods, like a baseborn wallet or Dumpster diving, to abduct a victim’s identity.

SOURCE: CENTER FOR IDENTITY MANAGEMENT AND INFORMATION PROTECTION AT UTICA COLLEGE, WHICH ANALYZED 517 CLOSED SECRET SERVICE IDENTITY THEFT CASES

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– – –

What to do?

A basal footfall against mitigating the accident of character annexation is to attending at your acclaim abode annually. Everyone is advantaged to one chargeless acclaim abode per year from anniversary of the three acclaim bureaus. Order them at annualcreditreport.com. The Illinois Advocate General’s Office additionally offers an character annexation hotline to advice victims of character theft. Alarm 866-999-5630.

– – –

Thieves’ tricks

While baseborn wallets and Dumpster diving abide accepted agency of accepting victims’ information, the “most approaching threat” in character annexation is the growing cardinal of companies that are appointment to wireless networks and are not encrypting the wireless transmission, authoritative it accessible for thieves to ambush information, said Jay Foley of Character Annexation Resource Center.

Others anguish amusing networking sites are facilitating ID theft. Groups accept formed on Facebook admonishing users not to put too abundant advice on their profiles, such as exact birthdays and addresses, because thieves can use that advice to canyon themselves off as you.

Nishay Sanan, a Chicago aegis advocate who represents bodies accused of character theft, said a accepted adjustment amid his audience is to attach a “skimming” accessory to a acclaim agenda or ATM machine, accession annual abstracts back a agenda is swiped. Perpetrators run the gamut, from restaurant advisers to ancestors members, but the action tends to be the same.

“Usually it’s aloof greed,” Sanan said.

A.E.R.

———-

aelejalderuiz@tribune.com

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