Claude Bookout is President of United Investigations International, a private investigations firm located in Austin, Texas. ( Texas license number: C9472

Blog updated monthly.

United International Investigations is an experienced private investigations firm with a reputation for integrity, dependability, and thoroughness. The firm provides its clients with a broad range of investigative assistance. Corporations, law firms, and prominent individuals have relied on its professional team of investigators to obtain power and control over their particular situations.

Some notes on identity theft

What are the odds that you’ll be a victim of identity theft this year? About 1 in 6, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

What is the expense of identity theft? Depends on the severity; however, the FTC estimates that the average victim spends $1,200 in out-of-pocket expenses and an average of 175 hours in his or her efforts to resolve the many problems caused by identity thieves. (Source

What are the most common types of identity theft? According to the ID Theft Data Clearinghouse, the following are the most common types of identity theft:
  • Using or opening a credit card account fraudulently
  • Opening telecommunications or utility accounts fraudulently
  • Passing bad checks or opening a new bank account
  • Working in another person’s name
  • Getting loans in another person’s name
People could also use your identity to obtain a driver’s license, medical services, or to cover up both violent and non-violent crimes. As a result, you could find yourself in a situation where you have unpaid fees and fines or an arrest warrant issued in your name.

There are several ways in which an identity thief can steal your information. Here are just a few of the more obscure ways:
  • Dumpster diving – As the saying goes, one person’s junk is another’s treasure.
  • Your mail box – An unlocked mail box receives delicious pieces of mail everyday, usually while people are not at home.
  • Computer hard drives – Don’t sell or recycle your computer without taking out the hard drive!
  • Stealing customer details from a business – A disgruntle employee, for example.
  • Email phishing scams – Don’t click on links embedded in emails!
  • TMI-O! – Too Much Information Online! Posting all your contact information online along with your resume, bio, and picture can give an identity thief enough nuggets to assume your identity.
  • Pre-texting – Some identity thieves pretend to be telemarketers and get unsuspecting victims to give them many details. If a legitimate representative of a company wants you to upgrade, they’d never say, “to verify your account, could you please provide your number and password?” Hang up!
  • Outright theft – Yes, there are still those old-schoolers out there who’ll just steal your wallet or purse.
  • Threats that you may not even know about -- Like this one:

Please do not become overly paranoid. People still have to take risks in order to function in our society. Being a member of an online social network can help you stay in touch with friends. Posting your resume online could be vital to getting yourself a job. Offering your biography online could solicit new clients. But be diligent whenever you put information online. Do an on-line security assessment from time to time.

How can you protect yourself? There is no shortage of information on the internet offering advice for protecting yourself (e.g., frequently change your online passwords). Here are a few good ones: FTC ID Theft HelpPrivacy Rights Clearinghouse, and Identity Theft Resource Center.

In the event that you should be a victim of identity theft, you need to take action immediately. 

Hiring a private investigator can save you time and money; here is a real life example:

An investigator I know was recently retained by an individual (the victim) whose social security number had been used to open an account with a large mobile phone provider in AustinTexas. Without notice, the victim started to receive harassing phone calls from a collection agency attempting to collect approximately $500. The identity thief had cleverly altered the last name of the victim and used a fictitious billing address to open the account. (This suggests it was likely an inside job.) The victim never received notice of the debt accumulating against his social security number. By the time the collection agency received the debt, more than a year had passed. It was the collection agency who eventually posted the delinquent account to the victim’s credit history; consequently, the victim’s credit monitoring company did not flag this because it was technically non-existent. (This also means that had the issue not been resolved quickly, the collection agency could have claimed the victim had himself committee fraud and reported him to the police.)

Due to the fact the credit added this alias to the victims credit history, the victim had an alias for several months and a lower credit score. After the victim repeatedly suggested to the collection agency that he was a victim of fraud, that his last name and date of birth were different than that of the supposed alias, and that he had never lived in AustinTexas he tired of dedicating so much time to this simple issue. The victim wasted at least 40 hours or more trying to resolve the problem himself when he retained the private investigator. For less than $150 and in just a few days time, the issue had been resolved. The investigator simply provided proof that no such address was in existence—a demonstration of negligence on the part of the mobile phone provider—and contacted the collection agency and the large mobile carrier on behalf of the victim. With specific details, a comfortable understanding of laws and legal jargon, the name of attorney, the investigator motivated both organizations to provide the proper forms for the victim to resolve the issue. According to the victim, the professional investigator saved him a lot more time. Since time is money, the $150 turned out to be a great return on investment.  

Your identity and financial credit history are important matters. Take precautions and contact the appropriate people who have the knowledge and experience to help you.

The following books may also be helpful: