Best Way To Catch An Indentity Thief: Do It Yourself

from the start-running dept

We’ve noted several times the disastrous mess that identity theft leaves its victims to clean up. The damage fraudsters do can have effects that linger on long after the standard post-data-leak offering of a year’s free credit monitoring, particularly as credit bureaus don’t make it easy to correct errors on credit reports and banks aren’t always helpful. Payments News points to an interesting story from the SF Chronicle several days ago that describes how one identity thief was caught — by her victim. The victim was in Starbucks one morning, and noticed a woman wearing a coat that looked exactly like one she’d seen in a security photo taken at a store when one of her credit cards was being used. She called 911 and chased the woman on her own for 45 minutes, then when a cop finally showed up, the thief was arrested. Given that more than six months had passed since the initial theft, it doesn’t seem like the banks’ investigators or the police were making much headway in their investigations, and without the victim’s determination and a healthy bit of luck, it’s hard to see the fraudster getting caught. Still, her conviction and subsequent sentencing aren’t exactly impressive: a judge sentenced her to time already served of 44 days and gave her three years’ probation. The fact that she was already on probation didn’t really seem to stop her from committing identity theft in this case, so it’s hard to be optimistic it will stop her in the future. With identity theft a problem that continues to grow, this tale is hardly confidence inspiring, and it’s clear that much work needs to be done in both the prevention of identity theft, as well as the investigation and prosecution of those who perpetrate it.

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Comments on “Best Way To Catch An Indentity Thief: Do It Yourself”

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Michael says:

identity theft

One solution would be to allow people to lock their credit reports. Without the ability to get new credit, identity theft would be limited. You would easily see the bad charges against your current card and cancel it. It’s only by opening new accounts that the thief can spend so much and do so much damage.

I’d even pay extra to have my report locked, and require phone or email verification to release a credit report. If Congress is going to pass laws in this area, I’d like them to require credit agencies to offer this service.

They don’t seem inclined to offer it themselves, presumably because it would mean less business.

Michael says:

california credit freeze

Thanks for the link, Anonymous Coward! I will send a hold immediately. I had heard that California (and some other states) allowed this only if you were a proven victim of identity theft. Apparently, it’s free in that case, but can be purchased if you are not. I’m not sure that this is available in all states.

Also, note the 3-5 day turnarounds on locking and unlocking the account. We’ll see how it works in practice.

Sanguine Dream says:

No motivation...

Most banks and credit card companies make the bulk of their money on fees and charges. So when an identity thief strikes and runs up a bunch of overdraft charges and other related fees the banks and credit card companies mainly see the chance to collect a lot of money from someone. And since it is easier (and more profitable) to stick the fees to the victim than it is to actually put some effort into helping the victim recover there is not much motivation to help the victim.

Howard Plumley (profile) says:

Identity Thieves - Crime = Punishment

By stealing your identity, the thief should forfeit their own. Until they make full restitution – no drivers license, no voter’s id, no phone (except prepaid), no credit card. Escrow their social security account and review their tax returns yearly. Until the punishment deters the crime, the criminals keep doing it.

Joyce Anderson says:

Identity Theft Victim Caught Criminal in the Act

First of all, in Ohio we have the right to “freeze” our credit report’s with the assistance of the Attorney General and, even obtain “special” rights to prevent further thefts such as hers.

Second, if I were the victim I, would of copied both, my driver’s license photo and, current photo of myself on a single piece of paper and, added the police report, title of the complaint and, my full name and, asked each retailer that I had made a purchase at on my bank statement to place this at the front register’s so, that if the ‘criminal
attempted to use my credit again, the clerk would have the police stations phone number available to immediately contact them and, catch the thief in the act.

Good for the victim that she followed through on catching the thief even, though it was risky the, theif could of had a gun on her. She should still see if she can “freeze” her credit report’s as, we can here in Ohio.

Anonymous Coward says:

Jail time isn't the end of it

I would think the victim here can sue in civil court for damages which could potentially strain the life of the perpetrator for several years even after the probation expires.

I’m sure the criminal punishment along with civil compensation likely does fit the crime. I think the problem is these criminals aren’t ever likely to go clean especially when they see their life as hopelessly ruined by their previous actions.

The mentality of these people is often “If you are already ruined, what does a little more damage do if it lets you have some temporary fun?”

And lastly, just because I can understand the situation doesn’t mean I have any clue how you would fix this problem.

Clueby4 says:

Umm Libel?

I’ve always wondered why credit reporting companies aren’t sued more often for Libel/Fraud. I mean they have ZERO requirement to confirm any information. There was a bill in 1984 that was going to require them to do so, but as expected in was defeated.

How about a simple law that states if you have access to any personal information, you have to submit an OPT-IN form annually to the information subjects, in order to maintain the data. The current process now is an opt-out, annually, which is nice for them, since they can hit the reset button after the first year, and release your information.

I mean I would love to see that logic work for me; Walk up to a individual, punch him in the face, when he complains inform him that he did not submit a “punch in the face” opt-out form. To bad I can’t afford lobbyist to write that one up for me 🙁

sam says:

Fed up

I’m so sick of law enforcement agencies hiring people who are too stupid to track down ID thieves. And I’m fed up with Senators who want to give amnesty to a bunch of illegals who are at the epicenter of this national epidemic. NO amnesty! These people have been stealing our identities for years without punishment and when a crime goes unpunished the people think it’s okay to do wrong. Deport these felons now.

dene says:

My husband’s identity was stolen 2 weeks ago. Counterfeit checks were made on our account and the guy has a fake driver’s license with my husband’s number and birthdate. I’ve done all the corrective things (closed accounts, contacted credit agencies, filed a police report etc) but really want to catch this guy. He also stole a UHaul and is using it to pick up the stuff he buys at stores. He’s writing checks in the Dallas area, one hour south of my home. I drove down this weekend and drove around the area that I mapped out of the stores he has purchased from. They are all along one strip of highway and two major roads in North Dallas. I even think I may have seen him at an apartment complex getting into the car identified by UHaul as the vehicle that dropped him off the day he came in to their store. My detective is not helping much, and I need some tools to investigate this guy further and find his identity. Any suggestions on busting this guy?

DRT says:

i hate thieves

Honestly the punishment does not fit the crime. Thanks to our borderline corrupt financial systems your credit directly influences your quality of life. If some scumbag ruins what you worked so hard for you need to end it immediately. Just call up the issuer of “your (the other fake you)” new credit card, or the company that just filled the order they placed. Tell them you want to confirm the correct addresses as you have recently moved. You can easily pass any security checks… its your info after all, besides the new shipping address. Go there at 3am, put 2 slugs in the bastards head, and never look back. Very easy. It’s been said that if you ever meet your Doppleganger, you have no choice to destroy them before they destroy you.

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