by Carlo Longino

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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    SPR, Jun 25th, 2007 @ 6:40pm

    Identity theft

    Perhaps the judge should spend 5 years in prison in the thief's place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Michael, Jun 25th, 2007 @ 7:02pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Bruce Kallenbach, Jun 25th, 2007 @ 7:59pm

    Identity theft

    This is a major problem! I had my driver license and wallet stolen about 3 years ago and ran up over 2500.00 worth of charges! I was lucky though the bank covered me after a drawn out investigation! But to this day I cannot write checks out because of it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 25th, 2007 @ 8:59pm

    Re: identity theft

    HMMM great idea!! why didn't anyone think of it before!!! in fact, you should patent the idea!! but read this first...http://www.privacy.ca.gov/sheets/cis10securityfreeze.htm

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Michael, Jun 25th, 2007 @ 9:12pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Spelling Nazi, Jun 25th, 2007 @ 10:25pm

    INdentity Theft?

    Is this the man who steals the indents from my paragraphs in a plain text file?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Sanguine Dream, Jun 26th, 2007 @ 5:59am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Howard Plumley, Jun 26th, 2007 @ 6:06am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    AC, Jun 26th, 2007 @ 6:38am

    Re: Identity Thieves - Crime = Punishment

    I don't know how well that would work thoug, they would just steal another ID.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Joyce Anderson, Jun 26th, 2007 @ 6:45am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2007 @ 8:51am

    Re: Identity Theft Victim Caught Criminal in the A

    Joyce, who taught you to use commas?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2007 @ 9:19am

    "would of" = "would have"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Rofl HaHA, Jun 26th, 2007 @ 10:46am



    I've noticed when he steals mine that he sometimes gives me a bunch of >>>>>>>s in return.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2007 @ 10:47am

    Re: Re: Identity Theft Victim Caught Criminal in t

    Can't, you, tell, no, one, did,,,

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 26th, 2007 @ 3:15pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Clueby4, Jun 26th, 2007 @ 6:57pm

    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 :(

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    bay area guy, Jun 27th, 2007 @ 6:47am

    For a moment I thought this was a new term...

    ... and not a simple spelling error. Indentity theft = theft of one's binding contracts (a.k.a indentures).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2007 @ 9:29am

    it's quickly getting to the point where if your identity IS stolen, rather than going through the hassle and persecution by the various "service" companies out there, it's getting easier, more practical, and less time-consuming to just let go of your real identity, and go steal someone else's.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    sam, Jun 30th, 2007 @ 3:51pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    dene, Jul 15th, 2007 @ 2:09pm

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    IDTheftReview, Apr 19th, 2011 @ 5:10am

    In stopping identity theft, you can not only rely on the people in the government or those hired specifically to stop them. The best way to eradicate these criminals is by helping out. If you see these reported persons, you can always pick up the phone and dial your local identity theft hotline and report them and their location.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    DRT, Jan 23rd, 2012 @ 10:50pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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