Cringely Finds Identity Theft More Profitable Than Day Job

from the isn't-it,-though? dept

The latest Bob Cringely piece talks about how he discovered just how easy it is to commit identity theft. He came up with one simple way, but this is just one of a million ways to steal people’s identity. What I found amusing, though, is that he goes through the same rhetoric every story about identity theft goes through in telling you how to “protect” your identity. He says to shred your documents. However, the method he used to find all the info he needed to steal someone’s identity clearly didn’t depend on dumpster diving for someone’s old Visa bills. The real issue is that, for the sake of customer convenience, the rules for “proving your identity” are not particularly strict at all. Thus, it’s not that hard for someone to “prove” to be you – and that’s where the trouble begins. The unfortunate part in all of this is that, despite the number of cases and the amount of money lost – there’s still little that can be done either to stop it, or to help the victims who have to piece back their credit and re-establish their “real” identity all by themselves.

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Comments on “Cringely Finds Identity Theft More Profitable Than Day Job”

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AMetamorphosis says:

Please ask for ID ...

I have written on the back of my Visa / Debit card ( where the signature should be ) ” Please ask for I.D. ” Although many merchants do not, This protects me because I can give an ID which clearly identifies who I am by matching the names on the cards. I get to keep my anonymity by not providing any signature by using the PIN #. Should a thief find my wallet it is useless becasue their is no signature match between any ID in the wallet and the D
Securing your ID is a responsibility one should take a seriously as they do locking their home.

LittleW0lf says:

Cure for Identity Theft...

After dealing the last week with one of the Credit Reporting Agencies, Experian, to no avail, I can tell you with 100% certainty, we will never get to the point of fixing identity theft as long as the Credit Reporting Agencies continue to operate in the fashion they currently are.

I found out last week, during a refi on my home, that some of my father’s debts were showing up on my records. My father pays his bills on time, so it didn’t affect my credit rating at all, however I was trying to clear my record of his stuff because it was wrong. Unfortunately, the way the dispute process of Experian works is that in order for you to be able to dispute an issue, you have two options…1.) pay either $9.00 or $79.95, for a copy of your credit report, then use the “report number” on the top of the credit report to fix your record online (which apparently doesn’t work so well,) or 2.) be denied credit, in which case the report is free, and you can fix your record online (which apparently doesn’t work so well either.)

There is no phone number to call to dispute issues, and they don’t present you with their mail address unless you dig, and even then, the mail address listing contains the warning that disputes cannot be sent to the address or they will be discarded.

So, using some of the information I gathered from the Mortgage company, I called the various loan companies listed on my credit report which belonged to my dad, and confirmed that in every case, there was nothing on the loan application that was fraudulant, or that had any of my information vice my father’s. So armed with this, I sent a letter to the company notifying them of my findings and asking them to review their records (or at least call the companies and confirm that they got the information wrong.)

What I got back was a form letter, stating that they could not review my dispute in this fashion, and that in order to dispute a record, I needed to call them at the number provided (which was a voice recording, and offered nothing other than reporting fraud, which had nothing to do with this, except that Experian had fraudulantly put my father’s debts on my record,) or provide a check or credit card for the amount of $79.95, at which time they would send me a copy of my credit report (each year,) and I could dispute their screw-ups.

It appears the only way I am going to be able to fix this is to sue them, at the very least for violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1997, which requires them to provide a report to me for the maximum set price of $8.00, and for not having a fair dispute process.

So I absolutely agree with Robert, the system is so fscked up beyond belief that the only way I see of getting a handle on it is to remove the one problem (who think that they are the solution) making it impossible to control identity theft.

At the very least, the credit reporting agencies should charge more for others wishing to obtain my credit report, while sending me a free one every month, and allowing me to dispute any incorrect information without jumping through a million hoops. Then, they should set up a system like the current postal system, where any changes to my report are sent to me, through snail mail or email, allowing me to see what is going on with my records.

Frankly, I would pay $300 extra for a car dealership or mortgage company to obtain my credit report. It would also make it a lot more difficult for the telemarketers and credit card companies, and would also make it harder on people wishing to steal my identity, because they would have to pay in order to obtain a fraudulant credit card.

Of course, I just sent a message similar to this to both the FTC and my local senators/representatives (through snail mail), but it is doubtful anything will come of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

...but which database?

$210k per victim? Who has that kind of credit?

Database of veterans.

Setup a fictional bank and a few fictional real eastate agencies. “Sell” a few 100 homes and retire very early, very rich (between 6 and 9 figures depending on how long you think you could get away with it… probably 6 months max).

Question is… who’s left holding the bag? I’m pretty sure it’s very easy to prove that you don’t own any given house.

The neat thing about this scam is that veterans’ housing loans are absolutly guarnanteed even if you have a completely unusable credit rating.

Who would have thought Cringely was a mad-skillz evil-genuis.

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