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Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan Paperback – 23 Jul 2008

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Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan + The Art of the Steal: How to Protect Yourself and Your Business from Fraud, America's #1 Crime + Catch Me If You Can: The True Story Of A Real Fake
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (A Division of Bantam Doubleday Del; 1st Pbk. Ed edition (23 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767925874
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767925877
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 817,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Burns on 14 Jan. 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a very well written guide on how identity theft occurs and what you can do to keep yourself safe, or at the very least reduce your risk.

A large majority of the content covers ways a criminal may obtain your full name, date of birth and (US) social security number. Because of this and other references to US company names and US laws this book would definitely be of more use to readers based in the USA.

I did think in places that too much detail was given to the reader and as such it would also be rather useful for a budding identity thief.

All in all, I found it to be very informative and still somewhat relevant to someone living in the UK.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Linda J. Neale on 16 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
Although the author is based in the USA, most of what he has to say has relevance where ever in the world you are. The book is interesting and entertaining, but above all illuminating! His own story is fascinating, but the tips he gives for identity protection are great.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book will open your eyes to the scary world of identity theft. Thank you Frank for your well written and thoroughly researched book. You are doing your bit to alert us to what will happen if we're not more careful with out personal information. The book caused me to change my careless ways.
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By Securityboyz on 29 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As an id fraud expert and being involved in the security industry this was an interesting read. Franks tips are still relevant today - wonder what Michael Sabo would have to say about this book? ;)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 24 reviews
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
What You Need to Know About Identity Theft 30 May 2007
By Andrew R. Allen - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book can help you to learn everything you want to know about protecting your personal information. Abagnale, a former counterfeiter and now consultant to the FBI and many large financial institutions around the world, gives an inside look at the various types of identity theft and how to reduce the likelihood of it.

He goes into technology oriented identity theft schemes such as pharming and phising as well as discussing more low tech methods such as dumpster diving. It's highly recommended that you shred any personally identifiable information prior to throwing it away. Looking through a person's garbage though it might seem disgusting but is an actual method some thieves use to steal a person's identity. Abagnale also advises mailing bills from an official Post Office box rather than raising your mailbox flag which also alerts a potential thief that there might be information worth stealing inside. Another tip is to always choose to opt out when a financial institution sends you a privacy policy. This helps prevent the spread of your personal information and the potential for it to be stolen.

Surprisingly, personal information such as social security numbers is still used on some driver's licenses or as employee ids. One should avoid this when possible due to the windows an SSN can open for a thief. Abagnale also recommends limiting your usage of checks due to the large number of hands and eyes that will handle it throughout the processing. A dishonest person along the way can grab this information and either sell it or use it himself.

Abagnale indicates that the most important thing one can do in guarding against identity theft is to pull your credit report from the three major credit reporting institutions. (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) This can be done for free at

One minor downside of the book is the author's promoting of his own products or products he endorses throughout the book. While they may be good resources to help in fighting identity theft, it seemed at times to be a sales pitch rather than an informational resource.

Overall, I learned several tips and had reinforced the need to be conscious of giving out personal information and guarding it from prying eyes.
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
"The crime leaves holes in people's lives." 20 May 2007
By E. Bukowsky - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Frank Abagnale's latest cautionary book, "Stealing Your Life," is more frightening than a gory murder mystery. Any one of us, from cradle to grave, is vulnerable to a swindle that can wreck us emotionally, cost us serious money, ruin our credit ratings, and take us years to straighten out. Identity theft is here to stay, and as long as legislators, businesses, law enforcement agencies, and individuals fail to take it seriously, the number of victims will continue to climb.

For thirty-two years, Abagnale has been a law-abiding citizen; his criminal past, famously recounted in the book and film "Catch Me If You Can," is a distant memory. However, he knows how crooks think, and this knowledge has led to a lucrative career as a consultant for the FBI and corporations all over the world in preventing frauds and scams. Abagnale is horrified at how easy and tempting identity theft is for the budding criminal. He calls it "a crook's dream come true."

By accessing someone's personal data, a criminal can become that person for all intents and purposes. He can purchase items on credit, buy a home, cash checks, and even commit felonies in someone else's name. Unless the perpetrator is caught, the victim bears the burden of proof that he never made those purchases or broke that law. Untangling the mess can be a terribly daunting, time-consuming, and frustrating task. What makes this crime so attractive is that you need never meet your victim to take over his identity. The risk is small and the rewards are potentially enormous. Scam artists have stolen the identity of babies and even of dead people. Millions are affected by identity theft every year and the cost runs into the billions.

In this lucidly written, fast-moving, and informative book, Abagnale explains not only why identity theft is becoming so common, but also why our financial institutions and government officials have done so little to stop it. Although computers have undoubtedly been a boon to mankind, they are also the source of a huge treasure trove of personal information there for the taking. Whether the thief is a private citizen, a dishonest employee, a relative, or an acquaintance, the temptation to take what isn't yours is often too great to resist, especially when the crime is simple to execute and is virtually risk-free. Why become a counterfeiter, forger, or burglar, when you can steal someone's identity? In the rare cases when the authorities catch an identity thief, he or she is rarely prosecuted.

"Stealing Your Life" is a must-read for anyone who has ever used a credit card, written a check, or made an Internet purchase. The author gives many heartbreaking real life examples of people whose identities were stolen, and who subsequently suffered terrible financial losses and psychological trauma. Abagnale concludes by telling us what precautions we all must take to help protect ourselves, and what governments and businesses should be doing to stem the tide of a crime that takes over people's lives with devastating results.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Excellent overview of the scourge of identity theft 18 July 2007
By Ben Rothke - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It's a fallacy that our elected officials take forever to get things done. Two examples where Washington acted with speed are with the National Do Not Call Registry and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

The National Do Not Call Registry was slated to take effect on October 1, 2003, but various marketing associations challenged its legitimacy and even if the FTC had the jurisdiction to enforce it. Notwithstanding, President Bush speedily signed the bill authorizing the no-call list to go into effect in September 2003 and the United State Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the registry in February 2004.

On June 25, 2002, WorldCom revealed it had overstated its earnings by more than $7 billion by improperly accounting for its operating costs. Senator Paul Sarbanes then introduced Senate Bill 2673 that same day where it passed 97-0 less than three weeks later. The House and Senate formed a Conference Committee to reconcile the differences between Sarbanes's bill and Representative Michael Oxley's bill (HR 3763) and on July 24, 2002, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was passed.

The bottom line is that when politicians really want votes and PR, they can act swiftly. The frustration is exacerbated when politicians choose to do nothing when it comes to identity theft. In Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan, Frank Abagnale details the frustration that consumers face (and will face in the years to come) when their identities are stolen, the ease at which the criminals carry out such crimes, and the months and often years of effort required to regain ones identity.

Abagnale's tenure on the criminal side long ago gives him the advantage that he knows firsthand how criminals think and such an outlook is pervasive throughout the book. Looking at the current state of identity protection, he states that he is personally horrified at how easy identity theft is. In fact, he calls it "a crook's dream come true". The book details incident after incident where criminals and criminal gangs obtained credit in someone else's name with ease.

What makes this worse is that the book shows how we haven't even scratched the surface of the identity theft problem. Everyone, including the FTC agrees that current identity theft figures are quite low, due to the fact that so many cases go unreported or undetected.

The book notes that lenders often miscategorize a good deal of identity theft because it looks like delinquent bills, as opposed to a crime. Only later does the victim realize what has been going on and complains, at which time it becomes apparent that fraud was involved. But by that time, the money has been written off as a credit loss and then appears as negative information on the victim's credit report.

Like many other books on the subject of identity theft, Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan covers the main issues, and makes numerous suggestions on how to control your identity. What is interesting about the book is that Abagnale also focuses on why identity theft is so popular for today's criminals. One of the main reasons it that the person committing the crime has the odds significantly stacked in their favor. The book quotes a Gartner study that found that identity thieves have roughly a 1 in 700 chance of getting caught by law enforcement, which is a figure any criminal would jump at.

The books 13 chapters are written in an easy to read and compelling style. The early chapters detail the prime causes of what makes identity theft such a problem and astutely notes that a large part of the problem is that financial services companies are conducting business today by doling out credit like candy and do almost nothing to ascertain that people really are who they say they are when applying for credit. In addition, issuers of credit in their haste to rack up more business frequently accept a social security number from an applicant at face value, without demanding proof. The book lists many examples of where children and dead people have been given credit.

In chapter 6, the book lists 20 steps one can take in the hope of preventing identify theft. The author notes that since the punishment for identity theft, and the recovery of stolen goods from identity theft are so low, the only viable source of action is prevention by the individual. All 20 steps are fundamental, from protecting your social security number and examining your financial statements, to using a shredder and more.

Chapter 8 lists one of the more important points of the book, in which Abagnale writes that all credit and personal information should be opt-in based, as opposed to the prevalent opt-out requirement. Such an approach is what one would hope Congress would mandate, but does not have the tenacity to do. The problem is that if a consumer does not opt-out, they are giving the financial institution permission to share their personal information with the hundreds and often thousands of affiliates they share data with.

Companies obviously prefer opt-out, which shifts the burden to the consumer to take action to keep their information from being shared. With opt-in, the burden shifts and the financial services company has to prove that consumers granted their consent to have their personal information shared. National opt-in requirements would significant stem the flow of personal information, which is in part why identity theft is so easy to carry out.

Aside from a glaring error in chapter 12 where Abagnale erroneously writes that true authentication is impossible on the Internet and occasionally hawking companies he has financial dealings with, Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan is an interesting and entertaining book on a subject of the fasting growing crime in the USA.

The book details what happens when an apathetic Congress and financial services industry do almost nothing to protect their constituents, and the thieves who have never had it easier. These identity thieves are able to acquire gigabytes of personal information without ever having to leave their workstations. When you factor in that the odds are in their favor of never being prosecuted, it leaves nearly every individual at risk for identity theft.

With Congress dropping the ball and doing nothing, Abagnale shows that it is up to each individual to take responsibility for protecting their own personal information. Stealing Your Life: The Ultimate Identity Theft Prevention Plan is indeed a great place to start such an approach.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Definitely read it, but don't accept everything he says blindly 25 May 2009
By Peter Miller - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Everyone should definitely read this book. Mr. Abagnale does a great job of making people aware of how vulnerable we all are to the dangers of identity theft.

What I didn't like was his tendency to sensationalize and exaggerate certain things; being able to access live satellite video feeds of your house on the internet, stuff like that. Yeah Google Earth and the street level view don't do much for privacy, but the satellite picture of my subdivision is so dated that it still shows a big patch of dirt. Hardly live, hardly a threat to your kids.

I say again, definitely buy this book and read it. You'll be a much more prepared and aware person for doing so. I can definitely see why he places so much emphasis on prevention, with more serious crime being so prevalent these days, the government doesn't have the resources to really go after identity thieves. Maybe we should all form an underground anti-identity theft vigilante group. Any takers?
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding work by the expert 4 Jun. 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Frank Abagnale has hit the nail on the head in his new book, "Stealing Your Life." It covers everything one needs to know to protect themselves from one of the most insidious crimes today, identity theft. It costs thousands of people time, money and the one thing many hold dear, privacy. Abagnale has done the world a service by putting into everyday language things people should do to protect themselves from becoming a victim. I have already read the book and intend to make it a gift to my three adult children so they too can know what they have to do to prevent this crime. Thanks to Mr. Abagnale for his excellent contribution to everyone who reads the book.
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