The Fraud Examiner

How Identity Theft Data Goes Unreported
 

Alana Benson                                  

Researcher, writer and fraud consultant 

I have this one friend. He’s an engineer and pretty Type A. He’s incredibly punctual, the kind of person who crosses the Ts and dots the Is. He also had his identity stolen. Two years ago, my friend (we’ll call him Will for the sake of this story) was in the process of moving. He packed up his car and was on the road for several days. One night he stopped for dinner, and when he returned to his car, his passenger window had been smashed. His old jeep had been completely rifled through, his stuff thrown everywhere. He had his whole life in that car, but what did the thieves take? The folder that contained his tax records — and nothing else.

 

Will was upset, but more about the loss of the car window than anything else. He monitored his credit for a while, but it seemed like nothing had come of it. Until now. Two years seems to be the standard timeframe for identity thieves to wait after they have accessed someone’s personal identifiable information (PII). It allows the victim to get complacent with the theft of their data, and possibly lapse in identity protections.

 

Suddenly, Will was getting plagued with fraud alert emails. When he checked his credit score, it had plummeted. In the course of a weekend, someone had taken out almost 50 credit cards in his name. They had purchased expensive jewelry and even went to a BMW dealership and tried to buy a car. Will spent hours on the phone with various fraud departments and talking with his bank and credit card companies. He learned the lingo and did a great job of getting the faulty reports wiped from his report. If anyone could learn how to navigate the swamp of identity theft as a novice, it’s this guy.

 

For a time, it became like a second job. He’d come home, make dinner and start making phone calls. In addition to sorting out his finances, Will also notified the police to file a report and called the FBI. The one group he didn’t call? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC).


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