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June 30, 2009

Identity theft can even affect professional athletes

"A recent article from shows how identity theft can catch up to strong, fast, and talented athletes in all sports – even Tiger Woods.

Back in 1998, someone used the golfing great’s personal information to make more than $50,000 worth of bogus charges. Woods, and the sport of golf, is not alone in being a victim of what could be termed 'athlete identity theft.'

In baseball, Geoff Jenkins, a former outfielder with the 2008 World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies, once had someone use his name to open several credit cards and rack up debt. It took Jenkins over a year to clear up his credit and deal with banks that had been defrauded in his name due to identity theft.

In football, an identity thief withdrew $10,000 from the bank account of cornerback Ty Law when he was a member of the New England Patriots, and quarterback Danny Wuerffel was victimized by identity theft when someone opened a credit card in his name while he played for the Green Bay Packers. The latest victim of athlete identity theft, Miami Dolphins rookie cornerback Vontae Davis, is also a football player.

In this case of identity theft, a man stopped for traffic infractions on June 9 in Champaign, Illinois showed police Davis' driver license (Davis' wallet was stolen several months ago while he was a student at the University of Illinois) and drove off a free man.

Soon after, national media reports identified Davis as the man cited in the incident, only Vontae was practicing with the Dolphins over 1,000 miles away in Davie, Florida on June 9. He even sent his brother Vernon – a tight end with the San Francisco 49ers – a text message that joked: 'Your brother got arrested in Illinois.'

However, identity theft is no laughing matter, for once someone has stolen another person’s identity, the identity theft victim must spend time and money clearing up the financial, criminal, and psychological problems left behind.

Athletes, in particular, are vulnerable to identity theft because details about them – dates of birth, names of family members, schools attended, and salaries – are available in press guides, on the Web, and even during national broadcasts. Also, athletes travel extensively throughout the U.S. and the world while using their financially attractive credit cards and bank accounts.

The crime of athlete identity theft has become so prevalent that major pro leagues are teaming up to produce a video that all players see during their pre-season training camps. Recently, the leagues have talked to their players about limiting the amount of information they share on social networking sites such as Facebook in an effort to curb identity theft.

Even those people who are not superstar pro athletes with millions of dollars at their disposal can become victims of identity theft. According to Javelin Research, identity theft affected nearly 10 million Americans in 2008 – most of them ordinary men and women – at a cost of more than $48 billion."

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