Identity theft hits 1 in 4 U.S. households and cost victims $5 billion dollars last year. That's according to a a new Federal Trade Commission survey.
Here's how it works. People take your identity and open a credit card or other account or they make fraudulent charges on your existing credit cards. That's what happened to Hazel Williams of Van. One day she opened her J.C. Penney credit card bill to find almost $2,000 dollars in charges she never made. It turns out they were made in Michigan by a stranger. Hazel was a victim of an identity thief. For the next 6 months, she spent time and money trying to clear her credit.
"The only sales slip, and this just blew my mind," says Hazel Williams. "The only sales slip J.C. Penney could come up with is for some infants wear like $300 dollars and do you know who signed it, and J.C. Penney accepted this, you know who signed this, think about this, Nicole Simpson."
To prevent another identity theft, Hazel had to red-flag all of her credit card accounts. Now, anytime a charge more than $500 dollars is made to her account, she's called to authorize it. The FTC also says you should be careful about giving out things like your social security number or mother's maiden name.