About 15 million people are victimized by identity theft each year and billions of dollars are stolen by the thieves behind these crimes.
But who cares? Why does law enforcement seem to throw its hands up in the air whenever consumers report a case of identity theft?
Well, the answer to the last question can be found in the first sentence of this column. There are so many people reporting so many incidents of identity theft that law enforcement agencies can’t keep up with them all. In addition, many of the crimes originate overseas.
I’ve heard all the excuses and I don’t care. As a consumer, as someone who has had his personal information stolen, I want these people punished. I want police officers, the FBI, Secret Service and CIA to track these jackals down and blow them away with missile-carrying drones.
All right, that’s probably going too far. But I want to believe dogged detectives will relentlessly pursue the culprits until they are brought to justice.
But if you’ve been a victim of this sort of crime, you have learned that’s the furthest thing from the truth.
“Just about everyone’s Social Security number is available on the dark net,” a police officer will tell you. “Everyone’s information is available. You can fill out a complaint to protect yourself against fraud, but chances are we’re never going to catch these people.”
But they’re having mail delivered to a post office box in Chicago. It’s on the credit card application they filled out. Can’t you just stake out that P.O. Box, wait for someone to pick up the mail and arrest them?”
You can almost hear the laughter peeling through the halls of the police station.
I feel for the millions of customers whose personal information may be been stolen in the Equifax hack.
Equifax is one of the three largest American credit agencies, the others being Experian and TransUnion. Its computer system recently was hacked and as many as 143 million Americans may have had their Social Security numbers, birth dates and mailing addresses stolen.
With that information, thieves can not only open credit accounts in your name, but commit income tax fraud, which currently costs us taxpayers billions of dollars a year.
The fact is that many of us may not even realize our personal information was on the Equifax database. Mine likely was because I had to contact all the credit agencies to place a freeze on my credit report after my personal information was stolen.
Those conversations went something like this:
Phil: “My personal information was stolen and I have been told by police to tell all three credit rating agencies that I want my credit frozen.”
Credit agency clerk: “What is your name and Social Security number?”
Phil: “I am not giving you my Social Security number.”
Clerk: “Then I can’t help you.”
Phil: “Do you understand that the reason I am calling is that someone stole my Social Security number?”
Clerk: “Sir, this is the credit agency. You can trust us.”
Phil: “I do (this was before the Equifax hack), but I don’t know who you are. What is your name?”
Clerk: “We do not reveal our names.”
Phil: “So I am supposed to trust you, but I don’t know who you are.”
Clerk: “I work here.”
Phil: “But you could be a summer employee. You could leave tomorrow with all of my information.”
Clerk: “Sir, if you are the victim of identity theft, everyone already has your information. It’s likely on the internet. So you may as well accept that.”
Someone ought to care.
Of course there is someone who takes this seriously. All those companies selling identity theft insurance, making fortunes because we’re all easy marks.
The people we pay to protect us have failed. It’s time we demanded better.
Send letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org.