One of the fastest growing crimes in America is identity theft. According to a survey released Monday, about 7 million Americans were victimized last year, swamping previous estimates of less than 1 million cases per year.
Identity theft, which usually means the fraudulent acquisition and subsequent misuse of a person's credit card number, can be achieved any number of ways depending on the extent of a crook's ingenuity. But some the most promising pickings are convenienced by the Internet, where a spammer can easily become a scammer.
All Web users know how irritating unsolicited e-mails -- spam -- can be, not only in their burgeoning numbers but also in the obviously dubious nature of most of them. In the hands of a criminal though, this irritant becomes much more sinister, landing a victim in a sea of unjust debt.
The usual cautionary note is to only do business over the Internet with reputable firms. However, this may not be as easy as it sounds. Recently, a phony Web site posing as Best Buy was exposed as a scam.
So here's what it boils down to. Do not reveal your credit card numbers over the Internet unless you are absolutely sure the transaction is with a trustworthy group or individual. And even then think twice before hitting the send button.
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