My, Oh My!

Identity Theft Complaints Have Decreased for Second Year in a Row

By Robert E. Holtfreter, Ph.D., CFE, CICA

robert-holtfreter-80x80.jpgTaking Back the ID
Identity Theft Prevention Analysis

Susan Duke, a retired successful university professor of criminology from Seattle, celebrated her birthday every year with her three daughters and their families at her condo on the big island of Hawaii. Her daughters always paid for her expenses to fly to Hawaii and also gave her $500 in traveler's checks to cover other expenses for the two-week period.

Susan did not anticipate any extra major expenditures, so she left her credit card and other financial information at home on top of her nightstand for safekeeping — or so she thought. She had rushed to pack for the trip and forgot to put a hold on her mail with the post office, and she had not notified her newspaper carrier to stop delivery. So thieves saw the stacks of mail and newspapers and correctly assumed she was on an extended vacation. They stole her mail (which included an unsolicited credit card application), broke into her home and stole all her valuables, including her credit card and other financial information.

The thieves applied for a new credit card under Susan's name with a different address to help conceal the crime and even called her current credit card company asking for an increase on her credit limit, which they received. Susan had excellent credit, so the credit card company issued a new card in her name and increased the line of credit on her old card to $25,000. In about one month the fraudsters who stole her identity racked up more than $35,000 on her cards. It took Susan more than a year and thousands of dollars to cover her losses and restore her excellent credit history.

Unfortunately, even though it is fictional, this is a common case of identity theft, as shown in the recent complaint data reported by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the 2010 Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) Data Book.



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