According to a report released by the US Department of Justice, more than 11 million Americans fall victim to identity fraud or stolen identity every year. Most of these might just be drops in the bucket and might not grab national headlines but if you add this up, close to $21 billion was lost in 2013.
The probability of becoming a stolen identity victim is real. In a world where personal information is regularly used for any type of transaction, whether it’s opening a bank or credit card account to even simple things such as filling up an online form. And don’t forget keeping your wallets safe, personal identity theft need not be high tech. Personal identity theft is a nightmare just waiting to happen. Below are three stolen identity stories:
Richard Todd Davis
Because he asked for it…. LifeLock CEO Todd Davis was so confident in his company’s ability to stop stolen identity cases that he began an advertising campaign that included sharing his social security number. Imagine posting your Social Security Number on billboards, commercials and even on the side of trucks. This was just trouble waiting to happen.
The marketing ploy ultimately backfired when several reports showed his social security number being compromised and used for taking out loans and opening new accounts. Rather than building confidence among LifeLock’s clients, it just casted more doubt about the credibility of his marketing campaign and how ill-advised this marketing strategy turned out. And coming from a personal identity theft company’s CEO, this spoke huge volumes not just about him but his company in particular.
An article published in June 2007 showed how Todd Davis himself became a victim of stolen identity. New came out that Davis had fallen victim to a man in Texas who had used his ID to take out a $500 loan. Todd Davis only found out of the theft after a collection agency informed him of his unsettled debt. After first trying to cover up the story and then trying to put a positive twist to it, Davis claimed that this was the first and only time this happened.
But it was later found out that this was not the only incident. Somewhere in Albany, Georgia another person had taken hold of Davis identity and opened an AT&T wireless account. The company later authorized a collection agency to recover a $2,390 debt. This was when LifeLock CEO Todd Davis became aware that his identity has again been used without his consent.
Lesson learned, if you want to protect your personal identity don’t go posting it over billboards or sharing it over commercials. The first cardinal rule of stolen identity protection is to always keep it safe in the first place. Amazing how an ounce of common sense could beat spending hundreds of dollars in identity protection services.
A twenty year old who took him for a ride…. Imagine the horror of waking up to news that you had accumulated hundreds of thousands in debt after someone used your identity for unauthorized purchases. This is exactly what happened to John Harrison, a Connecticut salesman. Jerry Phillips, the twenty year old who stole John Harrison’s identity went on a shopping spree that included purchases to Home Depot, JC Penny, Sears, Lowes and even bought two cars from Ford, a Kawasaki and a Harley. In just four months Jerry Phillips was able to accumulate $265,000 in purchases.
Jerry Phillips was later arrested and imprisoned for three years. He even went as far as to apologize to John Harrison saying, “Sorry. You know, I wish I could make it up to you.” John Harrison felt that the nightmare was over with the criminal behind bars and even verbally acknowledging his regret over the crime. But despite all of this and a letter from the Justice Department confirming that John Harrison was a victim, he still found himself owing $140,000 to different creditors.
Carlos M. Gomez
Waking up in the middle of the night realizing that federal agents has just entered your home with guns pointed and slapped with handcuffs certainly qualifies as one of the most horrifying ordeals in anyone’s life. And this is exactly what happened to Carlos Gomez, a UPS driver accused of being involved in a million dollar money laundering operation headed by a Wachovia bank employee.
Carlos spent close to two weeks in prison and another seven months under house arrest before federal prosecutors realized it was a mistake. With the prospect of losing his job because he was unable to inform his boss at UPS that he couldn’t report for work because he has just been arrested, Carlos contemplate the implication of his arrest.
Gomez was included in the list of 13 co-conspirators. He asked the agents what was he being charged with and the agents answered money laundering. He was also presented Wachovia checks bearing his name and replied that this was not his signature.
After spending nearly two weeks in detention, Carlos was released on a $100,000 bond. He resumed work for UPS but was only allowed to work during the day but remained under house arrest during the night.
In a country where everybody is presumed innocent, the burden of proving himself innocent was squarely on his shoulders. He took polygraph tests on his lawyer’s advice and passed. He then went to a local branch of Wells Fargo, the one who took over Wachovia and asked the address of the checking account used to launder money.
The big question here is how does your bank protect your personal information (Social Security Number) especially for closed accounts?