Invasion of the Identity Snatchers, Part One

By John Langione, CFE, CIA, CLU;Amy Southwood;Dr. Robert E. Holtfreter;Dr. Craig Ehlen, CFE, CPA;Dr. Thomas Buckhoff, CFE, CPA

Many say that identity theft is unavoidable, undetectable, and unstoppable. But fraud examiners can use their skills to fight this ubiquitous crime. 

Sam and Cindy were looking for a home healthcare worker to help them with their son who had physical disabilities. Sam, an experienced fraud investigator, did his research and hired Simon through a supposedly reputable service. Despite his best efforts, however, the couple opened the door to an "identity predator."

A few months after Simon began working at Sam and Cindy's home, creditors began calling the couple to demand that their son pay for past due auto and insurance payments. One day Simon didn't report for work. An insurance investigator then told Sam and Cindy that Simon was not only working under an alias but he had a long history of seeking employment that would give him access to personal records that he could use to steal identities.

Fortunately, Sam and Cindy didn't have to pay for the $23,000 car loan but they did have to spend hours preparing affidavits and explaining to creditors that their son's identity had been snatched. And their frustrations mounted when local law enforcement told them they wouldn't pursue the case because the home healthcare worker had purchased the car and insurance in another state. Meanwhile, "Simon" had slipped away to undoubtedly find some fresh victims.

Identity theft is often at the top of media reports and is always a hot subject for public forums. The characterizations of identity theft as "unavoidable," "undetectable," and "unstoppable," by government and law enforcement officials send chills down the backs of those who investigate and try to prevent this rampant crime. But as fraud examiners, we should know the latest on this ubiquitous crime so we can use our skills to fight it.

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