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    The Identity Theft You Haven't Heard of...Yet


    When the DCFS agent finally arrived at the house, she could see that Sachs hadn't given birth recently. But she still needed proof that this wasn't the woman who had abandoned an infant in a hospital and racked up a $10,000 bill. "It took five full minutes," Sachs recalls, "before she started to believe what I was saying."

    The accusations were dropped and Sachs was cleared of paying Moran's hospital bills, but the ordeal wasn't over. Sachs's medical records had been altered to include the blood type and general health record of a complete stranger. The two hospitals assured Sachs that they'd fixed the problem, but she can't be 100 percent sure because — in a catch-22 of utter insanity — they wouldn't let her see her own records, lest Moran's privacy rights be violated. "It's especially scary," she says, "because I have a blood-clotting disorder. If a doctor gave me the wrong blood type, it could be fatal."

    Target: Your Insurance Card

    For as little as $20, you can purchase a fake Social Security card. At ID mills around the country, buyers receive a reasonably authentic-looking card with their name and a nine-digit number. The seller generates the number on the card — but in most cases, by chance, that number already belongs to someone else. The person may be deceased or alive and unaware, age 4 or 84.

    In Utah and Houston, where many cases of Social Security ID theft are in the courts, prosecutors say that a majority of imposters are illegal immigrants (such as Betty's father on the TV show Ugly Betty ). There are no national statistics.

    "Some immigrants cross the border, go to an ID mill, and say, 'I need an SS card and this is the name I want on it,'" explains Houston Assistant District Attorney John Brewer. "They get jobs, start working, and eventually — when they realize they're not going to get caught — grow more comfortable with the number. Then they go the next step and sign up for a car loan or mortgage."

    And they usually get away with the crime because there are surprisingly few checks to stop this kind of theft, say prosecutors: Employers aren't required by law to verify Social Security Numbers and some car salesmen and mortgage brokers are willing to overlook a fishy credit report in order to complete a sale.

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