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6 More Places to Put Your Identity on Lock Down

If you have been thinking about a credit freeze, you probably should know that the process is designed so that a creditor cannot see your credit report unless you specifically allow it. This process blocks any potential creditors from viewing or pulling your file, which makes it much more difficult for an identity thief to apply for new credit using your name or information. For links to freeze your credit at the 3 major bureaus go to How to Freeze My Credit.  However, there have been reports of people complaining of having accounts opened in their name while having credit freezes. So, if you already have a credit freeze at Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax, you also might want to consider freezing at the following companies, too:

Innovis Credit Freeze

Innovis is the 4th credit bureau you need to freeze with. The process is similar to the big three and its free. Go here to freeze your Innovis Credit Freeze.

National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange or NCTUE

One place you should contact to freeze your credit through is the National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange, or NCTUE. Many mobile phone companies, for instance, get credit inquiries done through this organization, so hackers can still open mobile phone accounts in your name, even if your credit is locked down elsewhere via the 3 major bureaus.

In general, only mobile phone companies use NCTUE, but there are other companies, like water, power, and cable companies that also use it. You can contact NCTUE to freeze your credit by calling them and giving them your Social Security number. You will also have to verify a few other details, but the system is automated, so it’s very easy. If the system can verify your identity, your credit report through this organization will be frozen. You can also get your NCTUE credit report and risk score by calling their 800-number 1-866-349-5355 or try to do it online here NCTUE Freeze but some say this links form doesn’t work well.

ChexSystems

You should also place a security alert with ChexSystems. This is a system that is used by banks to verify the worthiness of customers who are requesting new savings and checking accounts. When you request a freeze through this organization, it is only applied to your ChexSystems consumer report. If you want to freeze your credit at other companies, you must do it directly through them. For ChexSystems, you can do it here: ChexSystems Security Freeze.

Opt-Out Prescreen

You can additionally opt out of any pre-approved credit offers by calling 1-888-5-OPT-OUT or you can go online and visit the website Optoutprescreen.com.

myE-Verify Self-Lock via the Department of Homeland Security

The fourth organization you should freeze your credit with is called Self Lockvia the Department of Homeland Security. This freeze helps to protect you from any employment-related fraud. When you lock your Social Security number through this tool, it will stop anyone from using your Social Security number to get a job, which is another scam. If a Social Security number that has been locked is entered into the system, it will result in a mismatch, which will flag the number as fake. It’s easy to lock and unlock your identity through Self Lock, and each time you do it, it remains locked for a year. Once that year is over, you can choose to renew the lock, too. You can learn more online at the Self-Lock Freeze.

Social Security Administration

Finally, if you want to prevent any type of Social Security fraud, you should set up an account at the Social Security Administration. There are a number of Social Security scams designed to siphon your benefits or sensitive information. Your telephone may ring followed by and automated message saying your Social Security number has been “suspended” because of some suspicious activity or be threatened with arrest if you don’t call the telephone number provided in the automated message. Simply by setting up the account you can prevent someone else from setting it up as you and posting as you. Also you can check in with then SSA should you received any calls, emails or mail to determine the communications legitimacy. You can do it online,Social Security Administration Set-up.

Here’s your Freeze to-do checklist.

  1. NCTUE Freeze
  2. ChexSystems Security Freeze.
  3. com.
  4. Self-Lock Freeze.
  5. Social Security Administration Set-up
  6. How to Freeze My Credit.
  7. Innovis Credit Freeze.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

How to Protect Your identity When Buying or Selling a Home

If you are in the process of buying or selling a home, at some point, you are going to have to disclose personal information when you go through the process. Because of this, a home buyer, especially, is much more likely to become a victim of identity theft.

Here are some ways to protect your identity when buying or selling a new home:

Ask if Communication is Secure

One thing to do is to make sure your mortgage and real estate professionals are using secure electronic communications. If they can’t articulate their security, such as they use two step verification, etc, then they aren’t generally secure. Otherwise, you should drop documents off in person.

Ask How Personal Info is Handled

Another thing to do is ask your lender how they will handle your personal info after the loan is complete. Are documents able to be stored securely? Will they be shredded when no longer needed?

Ask About Security Policies

You should also ask about the security policies of your lender and/or real estate professional. If they don’t have a security policy, they aren’t secure.

Get a Referral

Ask people you know for referrals for mortgage and real estate professionals. Verify that their licenses are current. Do business with those who others know, like and trust.

Choose a Real Estate Team That You Trust

Buying a new home takes a full team on both the sides of the buyer and the seller. So, you have to make sure that you trust them and that all of their credentials are up to date. You should also do your best to read reviews online.

Be Aware of Frauds

Fraudsters are always out there, and they take advantage of people looking to buy a home. For example, according to investigators, a California woman would offer to buy a home on behalf of the buyer because the buyer was under funded or an illegal immigrant. After the buyer provided the deposit, she would never be heard from again.So keep your eyes open as you go through the process.

Recognize Money Wire Scams

When looking at the home buying process, a report by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center said email fraud involving real estate transactions rose 1,110 percent in the years 2015 to 2017 and fraud dollars lost rose almost 2,200 percent.

Nearly 10,000 people reported being victims of this kind of fraud in When looking at the home buying process, a report by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center said email fraud involving real estate transactions rose 1,110 percent in the years 2015 to 2017 and fraud dollars lost rose almost 2,200 percent.

Nearly 10,000 people reported being victims of this kind of fraud in 2017 with losses over $56 million, the FBI report said. Real estate is only now tightening its belt and fighting back., the FBI report said. Real estate is only now tightening its belt and fighting back. The moment a wire transfer is requested via email, tell your agent or broker you want to meet them at the office to discuss. End of story.

Be Cautious on the Internet

During this process, you will be filling out a lot of forms and giving out a lot of your personal information. So, to help prevent any identity theft, you should only use a secure device on a secure network. You also have to make sure that you are using strong, varied passwords, and if you have to print out copies of documents, you should hide any account numbers or Social Security numbers.

Use Credit Monitoring or ID Theft Protection

When making a large purchase like a new home, you should make sure to have real time credit monitoring and identity theft protection.

Freeze or Lock Your Credit Until Making an Offer

You also might want to consider freezing or locking your credit until you are required to have your credit checked. Both options prevent a creditor from accessing your credit report, which stops a criminal from opening a new account.

Credit locks are available from consumer credit bureaus for a small fee, and you can lock or unlock your credit whenever you want. A credit freeze is free but slightly cumbersome. Go free and learn it.

Get a Copy of Your Credit Report

It’s also a good idea to get a credit report if you are going to finance a home. Checking this report will give you a good idea of what you can afford each month, and it will allow you to see if there are any mistakes or unusual behavior on the reports.

Stay Safe During the Closing Process Finally, remember that fraudsters are always out there, especially when people are using large sums of money. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that people lost about $1.48 billion to fraud last year, alone. So, it’s imperative that you keep yourself safe by avoiding things like phishing schemes, and if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

How to be a Grandma Identity Thief Murderer

Lois Riess is a woman from Minnesota who police say shot her husband, went on the run, and then killed a woman in order to take on her identity.  Here are some shocking facts about her:

Riess Looked Like her Victim 

The woman Lois Riess killed, Pamela Hutchinson, looked like her. This is why Pamela lost her life. When the body was found, police said her ID, credit cards, cash, and car was gone. Police put out an arrest warrant for Riess, and then started hunting for her. Police say the women did not know each other.

Lois Riess Allegedly Killed Her Husband, Too

Pamela Hutchinson wasn’t the only one who has allegedly died at Riess’ hand. Lois’ husband, David Riess, is also dead. He was found in the couple’s Minnesota home with several gunshot wounds after two weeks of not showing up at work. David’s car was missing, as was $11,000 out of his business account. It is believed that Lois used the same gun to kill both of her victims. Though Lois originally took the couple’s Cadillac, it was found abandoned in Florida several days later.

Pamela Hutchinson and David Riess

Though she was killed in Fort Myers, Pamela Hutchinson didn’t live there; she lived in Bradenton, FL. She was in Fort Myers to spread the ashes of her husband who had recently passed away.

David, Lois’ husband, owned a commercial worm farm. He was a Navy veteran and loved boating, fishing, hunting, and spending time with his grandkids.

Lois Riess was a Gambler, and She Had an Interesting Nickname

According to reports, Lois Riess was a gambler, and had an addiction to gambling that eventually destroyed her family. It is said that she stole more than $100,000 from her sister, and had the nickname, “Losing Streak Lois.”

Lois Took a Road Trip After the Killings

After killing Pamela, detective believe that Lois left Florida and traveled through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. She was driving Pamela’s car, which she took after shooting the woman.

Before Lois was even captured, she was charged with the murder of both her husband, David, and Hutchinson. She is facing a first degree murder charge in Florida along with grand theft auto, grand theft, and criminal use of personal identification. She faces the death penalty if found guilty. As for the alleged murder of her husband, David, in Minnesota, murder charges are pending, so it’s likely that she will face two counts of first degree murder when all is said and done in this case.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

DNA Tech is Catching Bad Guys and its Great and Scary

In 1996, a 12-year-old Washington state girl was raped and murdered. However, it wasn’t until June 2018, that an arrest was made in the case. How did this happen? DNA technology.

The man arrested is Gary Hartman, and he is accused of killing and raping 12-year old Michella Welch. Donald Ramsdell, the Tacoma Police Chief, has said that computer modeling, police techniques, and advances in DNA identification has led his team to arresting Hartman on June 20th.

This case goes all the way back to March 26th, 1986. Welch and her sisters were in Tacoma’s Puget Park. She left her sisters there and went home to make lunch. About three hours later, Michella’s sisters noticed that her bike and lunch were at the park, but she was nowhere to be found. Just before 11pm that night, the body of Michella was found. DNA was recovered, but police were unable to solve the case…until now.

Before the arrest of Gary Hartman was made, police tried a number of methods to solve this case. For instance, in 2006, they were able to create a DNA profile of the person whose DNA was found at the crime scene. However, they were unable to match that DNA with what was in their database. It wasn’t until 12 years after that, in 2018, that detectives from the Tacoma Police department was able to work with genetic genealogists and track the DNA to family members of the, at the time, unknown suspect. The researchers then used that information, along with public records, to create a family tree. There were two members of the family, brothers, who lived in Tacoma in 1986. Both immediately became possible suspects.

On June 4, detectives began monitoring Gary Hartman. Nothing of note happened that day, but the next day, June 5, Hartman went to breakfast with a co-worker. Detectives took the napkin that Hartman used at the restaurant and sent it in for DNA testing. The DNA that was on the napkin was the same DNA found at the rape and murder scene of Michella Welch. He was arrested for the crime on June 20 after a traffic stop.

Michella’s mother is thrilled by the arrest, and Michella’s younger sister, Nicole, who was only 9-years old in 1986, described her sister like a “second mother,” and said that Hartman cut her sister’s “precious life” short.

This is all wonderful. And right out of a sci-fi movie. OK, so you have nothing to hide right? I have nothing to hide either. But I’m never throwing a napkin away again!

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

2017 Was the Worst Year for Identity Theft EVER!

Javelin Strategy & Research recently released its Identity Fraud Study, and it revealed that the number of identity theft victims rose by 8% in 2017 when compared to 2016. That’s almost 17 million people, which is a record high. Despite more information and industry efforts to make people aware of these practices, $16.8 billion was stolen due to ID theft in 2016.

The study also showed a shift in how ID theft fraud was being done. Credit card accounts were the most common targets for new account fraud, we also see that there is a big uptick in other accounts being targeted, including PayPal accounts and e-commerce merchant accounts. We can also see that more than 30% of consumers in the US were notified that their information was part of a data breach, which is 12% higher than the year before. Social Security numbers also seem to be a favorite of ID thieves, as are credit card numbers. We also see that due to these breaches, consumers are becoming less trusting when it comes to companies and financial institutions that are storing personal data.

The Trends

There were four noteworthy trends that were also found in this study:

  • There was a Record High Rate of Identity Fraud – The study shows that almost 7% of all consumers were victims of ID fraud. This was almost a million people from 2016. This was mostly due to more account takeovers and more instances of fraud.
  • Account Takeover Has Grown – One of the most shocking things found in this study is that account takeover has tripled when compared to 2016 and has reached a four-year high. This is a 120% increase. It was also noted that the average victim had to pay an average of $290 out of pocket to solve these issues, and consumers spent more than 62 million hours trying to work these issues out.
  • Scammers Target Online Shoppers – The study also shows that people who shop online are most at risk of becoming a victim of fraud.
  • Scammers are More Sophisticated – Finally, the study showed that fraudsters are more sophisticated than ever before, and they use more complex methods than ever before.

Finally, the Identity Fraud Study did something new this year, too. It looked at the way news of data breaches has affected consumers. About 63% of people who responded say that they were “very” or “extremely” concerned about becoming a victim of a data breach.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video

The Term “Identity Theft Protection” is Often a Lie

If you are working for an IT security company, I have a message for you: the term “identity theft protection” is way overused and even abused as a marketing term. We know that this term is used to sell services and products, but does it really protect a user from being the victim of identity theft? No.

This is no different than labeling a food as “natural,” even though it is not actually “organic.” At best, this is incorrect information. At worst, it’s a total lie.

Every company with security solutions out there claims that they can protect identities. But, a firewall does nothing to protect a person from getting their identity stolen. The same goes with an encrypted thumb drive, antivirus software, or even phishing alerts.

Only true identity theft protection services monitor your identity. They do this by checking your credit report and scanning the internet for any sensitive personal info. It also looks for information such as the Social Security number, and if there is an issue, the service helps you solve the problem.

If you have identity theft protection right now, you might get an email like this each month:

We have been monitoring your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union, and we are pleased to inform you that we did not notice any new activity. As a user of our services, we will continue to check your credit report each day for your protection. We help to protect you from any financial losses and hassles that are associated with identity theft. You can log into our website and review your status at any time. Please click here and enter your username and password to get started. As always, our staff is standing by to assist if you notice any suspicious activity.

This is what you should get when you opt for identity theft protection. Don’t fall for the fancy marketing that security solutions companies throw at you.

At its basic level, this is what identity theft protection looks like:

  • Monitoring: continuous monitoring of your identity, privacy, and credit
  • Alerts: warning system rapidly notifying you when your personal information is at risk
  • Recovery: experts providing comprehensive, 24/7 recovery services taking care of paperwork, calls, and every detail to restore your identity

Do your research and don’t believe everything you see or read. Take the time to understand what you are spending your hard earned money on.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

Tips for Preventing Embezzlement and Employee Theft

If you are a business owner, you might be concerned about employee theft. If you aren’t concerned, perhaps you should be.

There are a number of ways that an employee can steal:

  • Embezzlement money, inventory or materials
  • Skimming – Diverting funds
  • Stealing business opportunities, data or trade secrets
  • Fraudulent disbursements like check tampering or billing schemes
  • Larceny – absolute theft

It might surprise you to find out that employees who steal are not usually new employees. Instead, they are those who have worked for a business for a number of years. (Three years is the average.) So, what can you do to protect your company from employee theft? Here are some ideas:

Watch Your Staff

You should be aware of the signs of theft. These include:

  • A sudden devotion to their work and/or the company
  • Working late
  • Living above their salary
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Evidence of gambling, bad check writing, or persistently asking to borrow money
  • A second job with materials available at your business
  • Strong objections to changes in inventory, financial, or supply procedures

Small businesses should always do background checks on any potential hire. Checking references is one thing, but to really understand who you are hiring, a full background check is best.

Supervise Employee Behavior

Research shows that employees are more likely to commit acts of fraud and theft when they don’t have a lot of supervision. You don’t have to supervise them constantly, but you should check on them often. It also is a good idea to have more than one person in charge of company finances.

Control All Business Receipts

Use pre-numbered sales slips and audit them frequently. This is especially the case with cash. You should not rely on a sales clerk to count and audit these receipts. Have another person do it.

Use Random Auditing

Start doing unannounced audits internally, and hire an outside company to do a yearly audit.

Use Purchase Orders

You should also use purchase orders and make sure that these are not handled by the same people over and over. It’s best to use pre-numbered purchase orders, and then always verify any orders coming in.

Keep Track of Business Checks

Use checks that are pre-numbered and make sure the amounts and recipient name is typed or in permanent ink. It’s best to produce checks from software, such as QuickBooks. If you have bank checks, make sure they are locked up.

Install Security Software on Computers

Start using security software on your computers that monitors employee activity, and restrict access to company records. You should also frequently change passwords and ensure that all of your security features are working.

Be Responsible with Accounts Receivable

Ensure that you are recording all of your incoming payments. Make sure incoming checks are marked as “deposit only.” Hire a forensics accountant at least bi-annually. Having a professional come in looking for discrepancies, or “cooked books” is worth every penny.

Use Security Systems with Inventory Management

Keep shipping and receiving as separate functions. Consider using security devices to monitor all inventory and merchandise that is coming in.

Install Security Cameras

Frankly, “trust” is overrated. It’s natural and normal to trust by default. As an “interdependent” species, humans can’t function without inherently trusting one another. But while most people can be trusted, the few that can’t need security cameras pointed at them all day.

Help Employees Report Theft by Their Co-Workers

You should make it as easy as possible for your staff to report theft or fraud by their co-workers. You want to make sure that you are doing this discretely, and you want to make sure that you don’t make it look like you don’t trust your staff.

What to Do if You Suspect Theft

If you have an employee who you think is stealing form you, here’s what you should do:

  • Use extreme caution when conducting your investigations and when making an accusation. If this turns out to be false, it could mean a lawsuit for you.
  • If you have a suspicion, investigate. If you can correctly identify the employee who is responsible, you should terminate their position immediately, revoke all network and building access and then consider contacting the authorities.
  • If theft is a complex or a large issue involving more than one employee, you should talk to a legal professional. They can help find experts who can help.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Understanding and Stopping Criminal Identity Theft

The definition of criminal identity theft is a crime where the criminal impersonates the victim in order to protect their innocence. This can lead to victims getting fines or even getting arrested and charged for crimes they did not commit.

How Does This Happen?

There are a number of ways that a criminal can pull this off, and it generally occurs when the thief steals someone’s identity. This is true and pure identity theft, often involving a drivers license with the thieves picture and the victims information. Once they have that, they are pretty much free to commit crimes in their victim’s name.

Stopping Criminal Identity Thieves

If you think that you are a victim of this crime, you should first get in touch with the police department where the charges are coming from. You should offer proof of your identity, and then fill out an impersonation report. The police will often take a photo, get your fingerprints, and run your ID info through their database. When they prove your innocence, warrants will be released. If you feel like this is a complicated situation, however, it is in your best interest to get a lawyer.

Did Someone Use Your Driver’s License?

If someone has stolen or used your driver’s license, take the following steps:

  1. Get your driver’s license record. You can get this from the DMV.
  2. Identify any inaccurate information from the report.
  3. Report any discrepancies.
  4. Discuss facial recognition with the DMV and if others photos are tied with your information.
  5. Clear all of the discrepancies. The DMV will do this for you after an investigation.

Signs That You Might be a Victim of Criminal Identity Theft

Sometimes you might not realize that you are a victim of criminal identity theft, but here are some signs:

  • Your Social Security Statement may have errors.
  • There will most likely be errors on background checks.
  • You might get fired and told your criminal record is the reason.
  • You might not get a job or apartment due to your false criminal record.

Preventing Criminal Identity Theft

There are some things you can do to make the chances lower that you will become a victim of criminal identity theft:

  • Keep your Social Security number and driver’s license safe and hidden when possible.
  • If you have to get a new credit card and/or driver’s license, make sure the numbers are different. You don’t just want the same number as the thief can still use it.
  • Get a credit freeze and consider identity theft protection.
  • Frankly, be as digitally secure as possible and manage paper records the best you can. But this is a hard crime to stop on your own.
  • Criminal identity theft happens when the victim has done nothing at all to secure their identity

Should You Be Worried About Criminal Identity Theft?

All of this sounds pretty scary, but there is only a very small chance that you would be held liable for any of these crimes. The bigger issue is that someone could victimize you for years, and you would never realize it. It could become a big headache, and it could also create a domino effect that could ultimately tarnish your good name. Preventing identity theft of all kinds is a start, and as long as you know how to fix it if it happens, you should be okay in the end. Don’t worry about it, but do something about it.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Do You Really Need Identity Theft Protection or is it a Waste of Money?

I see a ton of articles that say identity theft protection is not something you really need. These articles have titles like “ID Theft Protection Does Not Work,” or “The Poor Man’s Guide to ID Theft Protection.” Though some of these articles have a bit of merit, they totally miss the point.

Here’s the deal – You can’t protect yourself from every type of ID theft out there, and the types you can protect yourself against require a ton of focus. One way or the other, it will cost you money, time, and probably a bit of anxiety too.

Those who have elected not to invest in ID theft protection say they don’t need to pay for a service that they can take care of on their own. Why? Because they do the following:

Dispose of Their Mail, Securely – One thing that people do to protect their identity is to shred all of their mail. This is especially the case when it contains account information. However, this isn’t enough. Though you might do your part, there is no guarantee that your bank, mortgage company, or even electrical provider won’t toss paperwork with your information into a dumpster. At that point, it’s free for the taking.

Opt Out of Preapproved Credit Card Offers and Junk Mail – Yes, this is good advice. You can do it online at OptOutPrescreen.com. However, keep in mind that even if you do this, you will still get some offers.

Get a P.O. Box – I’m not sure why people think that getting and using a P.O. box will help to protect them from identity theft, but they do. Yes, this is a more secure way of getting your mail and in some cases will protect sensitive data. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help much.

Check Their Credit Report – Yes, you should always check your credit report. But, people who believe that checking their credit report can stop ID theft are mistaken. You can get a free credit report each year at AnnualCreditReport.com, but you really need to check more often than once every 12 months. Checking a credit report does not proactively protect your identity.

Set Up Fraud Alerts – People also set up fraud alerts and think they are fully protected from ID theft. Again, fraud alerts are great, but they expire after 90 days, and most people forget to renew the service. Additionally, these are only a guideline for your creditors, and they are not required to contact you if they issue credit.

Freeze Their Credit – These people also freeze their credit. This is a good thing to do, and I think it is fundamental to protecting your identity, but again, it doesn’t help to protect your ID from tax-related identity theft, criminal identity theft, account takeover or medical identity theft.

All of these things help, and are necessary in addition to a Protection Service, but people who stick with these and don’t get full service identity theft protection are putting themselves in a precarious position. Instead, it’s best to get a professional product, which offers better protection.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Man raises a Family on Dead Man’s Stolen Identity

Imagine you learn your husband (or wife) of 25 years is really a different person. That’s what happened to Mary Hickman—25 years after she married a man who had identified himself all those years back as Terry Jude Symansky. The Florida couple had a son and lead an uneventful life, with Symansky working different jobs and even acquiring a pilot’s license.

11DIn actuality, Symansky was really Richard Hoagland, who’d been married twice before, who had lived in Indiana and then mysteriously disappeared and was eventually presumed dead. He had stolen the real Terry Jude Symansky’s identity and got away with this for 25 years—until he was busted by Symansky’s nephew.

The nephew learned of the identity theft, something he never even suspected, via Ancestry.com. He reported this to the police, who then alerted Hickman.

Hickman subsequently came upon documents in the attic proving that her husband was an imposter of a man who had died in 1991 in a drowning accident. Hoagland, 63, was arrested.

So why had he vanished from Indiana? There, he’d had four kids with two wives. He had wanted to get away from one of the wives, so he up and left, though he told her it was because the FBI wanted him for the theft of millions of dollars—a claim that has yet to be substantiated.

How did Hoagland steal Symansky’s identity in the first place? It certainly helped that he had once been living with the dead man’s father, where he had found a copy of Symansky’s death certificate. He had used this document to get a birth certificate, and armed with that, he was on his way to assuming the identify of a man who had never even been married nor had any kids—which had made it even easier for Hoagland to pull off his caper.

We can probably thank those Ancestry.com commercials for causing the chain of events that led up to the crook’s arrest.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.