By Cheryl Elliott—Half of all identity thefts are committed by (ex)spouses, relatives and close friends.

In my notary classes, I always tell the students that about half of all identity theft is committed by close friends and relatives, who gain access to the personal records in your home, office, wallet or pocketbook. They not only steal bills and credit cards, but also you LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT and the identity that goes with it. This is the shocking conclusion of a new 2005 survey of 4,000 consumers, about 500 of whom were identity theft victims. This survey was conducted by Javelin Research and the Better Business Bureau for CheckFree Services Corp., Visa USA, and Wells Fargo Bank, reported by MarketWatch and The Associated Press.

Why only your name, Social Security number and birth date? Identity thieves are limited only by their creativity, criminal mind, and desire to forge your name on documents linked to your financial assets. This includes your LAST WILL and TESTAMENT, property deeds, insurance policies, beneficiary change forms, current and new bank accounts, credit cards, phone and utility bills.

Sometimes you’ll be asked by companies who want to hire you as a mobile notary, loan signing agent, to fax in your Drivers License and Social Security Number. DEADLY! This is why we recommend you apply for an EIN from the IRS. As far as faxing someone your driver’s license, I will send a DMV printout of Drivers License, but “black out” my driver’s license number, and the birth date. Of course it is illegal for us to fax a copy of our notary seal, but you can fax your commission issued by your state’s Secretary of State.

If you’d like to learn about identity theft in a way that is both educational and entertaining, Cheryl recommends reading No Greater Deception: A True Texas Story, by Sydney Newman Dotson. It’s a real life Texas Soap Opera of love, death, betrayal and justice. Move over DALLAS, here comes HOUSTON! “No Greater Deception” is chocked full of tips to help you insure what happened to this large Texas family, doesn’t happen to yours. Learn how Betty Newman, the evil stepmother and black widow serial killer, forged several family members’ last well and testaments and much, much, more before their mysterious deaths.

The back cover says: “Hold onto your bootstraps folks! If you liked Erin Brockovich, you’ll be thoroughly intrigued with the adventures of these two sisters, their knack for investigative work, and their family in Texas. This is a stirring, humorous and unconventional ‘true story’ about their epics and the Texas Justice System.” Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?