The police caught up with the thief, who pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and credit card fraud. She was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.

A piece of a stolen pie

A millionaire dentist from Michigan was arrested in March 2011 after allegedly finding a credit card during a trip to Florida and using it to buy pizza.

Authorities said Dr. Richard Ludwig found a college student's credit card outside a mall and used it to place an order for two large pizzas. Around the same time, the student realized he had dropped his card in the parking lot and called the card company to cancel it. The company told him the card had just been used to purchase pizza at the same mall where he had lost it, so he immediately called police.

Police who went to the restaurant and said they found Ludwig still waiting for a $40.64 pizza order. Ludwig, who had $250 in cash in his wallet, told police his net worth was between $3 million and $4 million. His case is awaiting a court date.

Neighbors from hell

In March 2008, a man roused suspicion at a Wichita, Kan., police station after he strolled in and reported that he was an undercover agent who had assumed another man's identity. A sort of bizarre confession, perhaps?

It's unclear why the man went to the station, but the next day, when police went to the address the man had provided, they discovered the self-described undercover agent and his wife living in the home. The catch: It wasn't their home.

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The pair had broken into the house and assumed the identity of the real owner, who was out of town for several months caring for his sick mother. Once in, they opened credit card accounts, hooked up satellite TV and phone service, and ordered new flat-screen TVs and laptops in the homeowner's name.

And just in case the homeowner were to return, the couple changed the locks. At least they kept up the place: The pair even put up a new mailbox. During their stay, the couple also hosted neighbors -- who thought they were new homeowners or new renters -- for dinner.

Don't become a statistic

The 2011 Identity Fraud Survey Report, released in February by Javelin Strategy & Research, had some good news. The report said the number of identity fraud victims had decreased by 28%, to 8.1 million, in the United States in 2010. That's 3 million fewer victims than in 2009. Total fraud dropped from $56 billion to $37 billion, the report said.

However, Beverly Blair Harzog, a consumer advocate and spokeswoman for Credit.com, says that doesn't mean your credit cards and your identity are safe.

She gives these tips:

  • Check your accounts online weekly. It takes only a minute but can save you a lot of heartache and time fighting fraudulent charges. "Check them daily if you suspect anything is amiss with your cards," Harzog says.
  • Check your credit report every four months. You are entitled to one free report a year from each of the three major credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion -- and Harzog suggests spreading out the free reports, pulling a different report every four months.
  • Sign the back of every credit card. "Don't write 'see driver's license' on the back, because that means a cashier or worker has the chance to look at your license, which has your address and signature. That's a bigger risk for ID theft than signing the back of the card."