Grave Robbers

Even in the great beyond, no one is safe from identity theft

"They're getting sharper and sharper," says Vaughn, whose company leases mostly high-end European cars.

This summer, the Federal Trade Commission called identity theft "a crime of the times" and released survey results showing that 4.6 percent of Americans were identity theft victims last year. A third of those had people opening new accounts fraudulently created in their names, which usually adds up to five-figure losses in the accounts of the real account holders.

A couple of mugs: William R. Tisdale Jr., left, and his brother Michael K. Tisdale are accused of sifting through the obits and stealing the identities of the recently deceased. Their alleged spree netted cash, cars and some free shopping at Neiman Marcus.
A couple of mugs: William R. Tisdale Jr., left, and his brother Michael K. Tisdale are accused of sifting through the obits and stealing the identities of the recently deceased. Their alleged spree netted cash, cars and some free shopping at Neiman Marcus.
Robbing the dead: Jennifer Koury, an Austin musician and restaurateur, was among more than a dozen Texans targeted by the identity theft ring. She hadn't even been buried by the time thieves had stolen her credit information, faked a drivers license and went to town with her accounts.
Robbing the dead: Jennifer Koury, an Austin musician and restaurateur, was among more than a dozen Texans targeted by the identity theft ring. She hadn't even been buried by the time thieves had stolen her credit information, faked a drivers license and went to town with her accounts.

Bulban, at Texas Mustang Auto, says he expects things will get worse before they get better. With computerized databases, high-resolution printers and other tools widely available--and law enforcement slow to the punch--he believes ID theft is just beginning to come of age. "It's like the Internet was in 1994," he predicts. "It's only starting to take off."

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