Cases from the PRC Hotline:
October 1996 - September 1997


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September 1, 1997

Credit Reporting | Debt Collection Practices | Insurance | Social Security Numbers | Merchant Information Gathering | Unwanted Mail | Telemarketing | Fingerprinting | Medical Records | Government Records | Workplace | "Smart" Phone Features | Identity Theft

CREDIT REPORTING

Too young to be solicited

Frank's son, age 10, received a pre-approved offer of credit in the mail. Frank traced the solicitation back to the national athletic organization that oversees the swimming program that his son participated in. Angered that the organization would release the names and addresses of its young enrollees, Frank disenrolled his son from the program. 02-160-97

Illegitimate access to his credit report

Jim's ex-wife knew someone in a carpet store who had access to the computer terminal that is used to retrieve customers' credit reports from the credit bureau. She convinced the store employee to retrieve her former husband's credit report three times, even though such access would be illegitimate since no "permissible business purpose" was involved. She wanted to determine his financial status for matters related to their divorce settlement. The credit bureau, which had detected the illegitimate access, said it would write a letter to the carpet store regarding its illegitimate activity. 07-x-97

A car dealership "helps out"

Helen's ex-husband was able to talk the local auto dealership into pulling Helen's credit report. Information obtained from the report was used against her in their divorce proceedings. Helen sued her husband for illegitimate access to the credit, but she lost the case. She appealed the case to a higher court. 07-x-97

DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES

More than just friends and family

Sara's home was badly damaged in the Northridge earthquake. She had to vacate the premises so that repairs could be made. The phone company was unable to find her new address in order to mail the final bill. They eventually sent her bill to the company's collection department. Some of her colleagues from work were subsequently notified by the collection agency. They told Sara that the collection department had inquired of her whereabouts. Sara wondered how the collection department knew who her work colleagues were. The phone company's collection department told her that they had access to the telephone numbers she had dialed before she moved, and that they used that information to contact individuals with whom she had been in contact by phone. Sara was outraged that the phone company could use her telephone call lists for this purpose. The PRC discovered the loophole in the law that allows such usage. Sara was encouraged to write to the California Public Utilities Commission to voice her outrage over the phone company's privacy-intrusive procedures. 07-013-97

INSURANCE

Surveillance on a worker's comp case

Flora filed for worker's compensation due to an on-the-job injury. The insurance company hired an investigator to follow her, her young children and her friends. The investigator sat in his car outside her home and waited for her to step outside. He followed her to her doctor's office, the bank, the grocery store, her daughter's school and so on. When she complained to her own attorney about being followed, he said this was allowable and was common in such cases. 07-E-97

SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS

How did they get his number

Del received a solicitation in the mail offering him a second trust deed on his home, the proceeds of which could be used as a loan for home improvements, credit card balance or other purposes. He was angered to notice that his Social Security number was printed next to his name on the solicitation. He wondered how this direct marketer could have obtained his SSN. He wrote a letter of complaint to his Congressman. 01-x-97

The $1 million dollar Social Security number sweepstakes

The bold print of the solicitation Jane received in the mail said: "Examine the number below. If it matches your Social Security number, you are a 1st round Cash Winner in CVP's $1 Million Dollar Social Security Sweepstakes." Sure enough, the number printed on the letter was her own Social Security number. Jane contacted the consumer reporter of her local newspaper to complain about this company's access to her SSN. 02-x-97

The alumni association can always find you

Linda did not keep up with the college she graduated from many years ago. She was surprised when the college's alumni association was able to locate her. When she investigated, she found out that the university had given her Social Security number to its alumni association. The association, in turn, obtained her current address by purchasing the "credit header" from a credit bureau. She would like to sue the college for releasing her SSN to the alumni association. (The "credit header" is the portion of the credit report that is not governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. It contains name, name variations, address, former addresses, year and month of birth, and Social Security number. The credit bureaus sell credit header data, and it's used primarily for locational purposes.) 04-144-97

Cellular phone companies want your SSN

The PRC has received complaints from several consumers throughout California who are attempting to obtain cellular phone service. Most such companies require that applicants divulge their SSNs. When individuals refuse, they are told they cannot have service. 04-x-97

Coercion is the game

The PRC has observed the growing use of coercion by entities asking for SSNs. Cellular phone companies (see previous case) are but one example. Here a couple more:

Junior lives in a rural area. When his trash was not picked up he called the waste management company to inquire why. The company asked him for his SSN. He refused to give it to them. They in turn refused to pick up his garbage. 6-x-97

Ellen, a staff member of the consumer fraud division of the District Attorney's office, called the PRC regarding the practice of a landlord of an apartment complex for senior citizens. One of the tenants complained to her office that the landlord is now requiring that all tenants write their Social Security number on their monthly rent checks. If they refuse to do so, they will be asked to vacate.

Employers' misuse of SSNs

Barry is an air traffic controller for a major U.S. airport. His employer is the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA recently distributed the full names and SSNs of all controllers to one of the airlines without the knowledge or consent of anyone. When the FAA was questioned about this practice, the controllers were told the numbers are going to be used on security cards. 07-x-97

Drew complained to the PRC that his employer is using the SSN as an employee identification number. It will be used on medical benefits cards and various documents. He is concerned that human resources personnel and other individuals within the company have access to it. Worse, clerical staff have recently been given laptops which they can take home with them. The laptops have all been loaded with the employee database, which includes the SSNs of all employees. He is worried about the security of this information. 07-x-97

MERCHANT INFORMATION-GATHERING PRACTICES

A police officer's complaint

Tim is a police officer. He was shopping at a supermarket and wanted to rent a video from the store's video collection. The clerk asked for his phone number. He refused to give it because it's unlisted (most police officers maintain unlisted numbers for personal security reasons). The supermarket refused to rent him the video, even though his check for $200 worth of groceries had just been accepted by the same clerk. 01-057-97

UNWANTED MAIL SOLICITATIONS

The drug company knows his ailments

Ken received a solicitation in the mail from a pharmaceutical company. The ad indicated that the company knew which heart medication he was taking. The ad suggested that Ken talk to his doctor about switching to their medication. Ken asked how they knew he was taking that specific medication. He was told they received it from the marketing data company Metromail and that he must have filled out a survey with that information on it. Ken has no memory of having filled out such a survey. 12-109-96

The maternity clothing store sold their names

Jack and his wife shopped for maternity clothes to prepare for the upcoming birth of their baby. The maternity clothing store wanted their names and address. When Jack asked that their names not be sold to marketers, they were told that they never sell such data. However, Jack and his wife soon began receiving baby-related offers in the mail. When he traced the solicitations back, he discovered that the maternity store indeed had sold their name. 02-001-97

Did the hospital release her name?

Janet was a patient in a hospital that specializes in the treatment of cancer. The hospital is associated with a university. She received a mail solicitation from the university for its legacy trust, and was invited to leave a gift to the school in her will. Since she wasn't an alumnus of the university, she wondered how they got her name. She suspected that the hospital may have released the names of individuals who had been patients at their facility. But she wasn't able to verify it. 05-226-97

A pharmacy that's all too helpful

Barbara received a letter from the drug company that manufactures a well-know pain reliever. The letter made reference to her own pharmacy by name. Barbara was upset that her pharmacy would have released her name, and the names of other clients, to a pharmaceutical company without permission. When she called the pharmacy, she was told that the pharmacy didn't release their clients' names. Rather, they did the mailing for the drug company. The explanation by her pharmacy was not enough to quell Barbara's concerns about the violation of her privacy. 08-x-97

TELEMARKETING

A psychic has a hot tip

Gloria was greeted with the following message on her telephone answering machine when she got home from work one evening. The caller was a man with an authoritative, urgent tone to his voice. "Something BIG is going to be happening to you VERY SOON. You need to call us RIGHT NOW. Call our psychics directly at 1-900-xxx-xxxx. WRITE IT DOWN. Hang up and call this number RIGHT NOW. Our real psychics need to tell you this information NOW. Call NOW, 1-900-xxx-xxxx." Gloria was very upset at receiving this message. The PRC told her it was a violation of both California and federal law, and referred her to the California Public Utilities Commission and the Federal Communications Commission. 6-x-97

Some long distance companies are aggressive telemarketers

The PRC has received several calls from consumers complaining about persistent telemarketing efforts by long distance companies. The Garcia residence switched long distance service to another carrier. In an attempt to win them back, AT&T called their home several times, sometimes as many as two to three times in an evening. We told the Garcias of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, and the option of taking the telemarketer to small claims court for not honoring their "don't call" requests. 7-057-97

FINGERPRINTING

Objecting to being fingerprinted when cashing checks

Many banks and some merchants in California instituted fingerprinting requirements in 1997. Several individuals have called the PRC to complain about this practice. They consider the taking of fingerprints to be a violation of their privacy. They wonder what will be done with the fingerprint in the long run. Wells Fargo Bank, for example, requires that a fingerprint be placed on the front of the check when it is being cashed by someone who is not a customer of the bank. And as many as 20 Von's supermarkets in California are requiring the fingerprints of everyone who writes a check. Customers are told that their checks will not cashed unless the fingerprint is provided. Even though the customers have several types of identification which they are willing to provide, their checks have been refused when the individual does not provide the fingerprint. When asked why fingerprints are being required, they are told that it is to deter fraud. 3-x-97, 8-x-97

MEDICAL RECORDS

[See the section on "Unwanted Mail Solicitations" for additional medical records cases.]

A cozy relationship between his employer and the HMO

Ben and Ginny, a married couple, have both worked for the same large company for over 25 years. They had some legal problems with their HMO (health maintenance organization) and filed suit against it for malpractice. Ben was up-front about this situation with the personnel department of his employer. Without authorization, the employer, which is one of the largest clients of the HMO, obtained legal and medical information about them from the HMO, including sensitive information about the emotional condition of Ginny. Many of their co-workers now know details of their medical condition. Ben is suing his employer for invasion of privacy. He has since been demoted from a management position. 11-038-96

Errant faxes from the local hospital

Mary's home fax machine happens to have a telephone number similar to the fax machine of a health care facility. On several occasions the local hospital has faxed patient records to her home, meant for the health care facility. Even though Mary has called the hospital several times to warn them of their error, they continue to make the mistake. 03-100-97

The dentist refused him service

Ted had been a patient of the same dentist for 10 years. Recently, the dentist began requiring that all patients provide him with their Social Security numbers and other information, such as bank account numbers and spouse's SSN. Ted has always paid by check, even paying up front, and has never written a bad check. He refused to provide this information to his dentist and offered to start paying in cash. But the dentist refused to serve him any longer unless he provided the information. 03-239-97

The fax was meant for someone else

The PRC received a lengthy fax from a mental health facility in another state. It was obvious that a wrong number had been dialed and that the fax was meant for a doctor who had been caring for a certain patient who was about to be released from the facility. The fax contained a great deal of information about the patient. The cover letter on the fax did not include a confidentiality statement.* Nor did it provide a telephone number and name to be called in case the fax was sent to a wrong number. The PRC attempted to call the individual named on the fax cover sheet. A voice message was left with that person which explained the receipt of the fax. That individual never returned the call to instruct us on the disposition of the fax. 6-x-97

* A typical confidentiality statement for fax cover pages is as follows:

"The information contained in this facsimile is privileged and confidential. It is intended only for the use of the individual(s) or entity named above. If you are not the intended recipient of this facsimile, or the employee or agent responsible for delivering it to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that the dissemination, distribution or copying of this facsimile is strictly prohibited. If you have received this facsimile in error, please notify the sender immediately by telephone and destroy this document."

GOVERNMENT RECORDS

Should county records be on the Internet?

Bettina reported to the PRC that the real estate transaction records of a county in Arizona were about to be placed on the Internet. She noted that such records are public, and that anyone can walk into the county administration building and look up the records. But she was concerned about the ease of access afforded by the Internet. Bettina herself is a community activist who sometimes takes unpopular positions. She does not want her home address to be readily available. She also expressed concern about law enforcement officers who own property. Their home addresses would also be exposed unless they put their property in a trust. 6-x-97

Can one's driver's license be photographed without consent?

Elsa bought several pieces of furniture at a furniture store. When she paid by check, she was asked to show her driver's license. When the clerk took the license from her hand, he placed it on a pre-marked spot on the counter. Elsa looked up and saw a camera on the ceiling. She complained that her driver's license had been photographed without her permission. Elsa canceled her order of $1,000 and left the store. She followed up by writing a letter of complaint to them and to her legislator. She called the PRC to find out if it is against the law to photograph a driver's license. We learned that it is unlawful to take a photo or make a duplicate of a California driver's license such that it can be mistaken for a valid driver's license (California Vehicle Code 14610). 05-231-97

WORKPLACE

Is there a blacklist?

Yolanda was an engineer in the defense industry. She filed a sex harassment suit against her employer several years ago. The defense attorney told her that she'd "never work in the industry again." Indeed, Yolanda has not been able to find work in her field since then. She wonders if there is a blacklist available to defense industry employers that is keeping her from finding work. 11-117-96

The employer is asking too much

Patty is seeking a promotion in her job with the county. She was shocked when asked to sign a waiver allowing the personnel department to conduct a background check. She felt the waiver was far too broad, and sent a copy to the PRC. Here is what it says: "This authorization includes, but is not limited to, information, records, statements, and opinions pertaining to my employment, military service, financial status, criminal conviction, child abuse investigations, driving, or educational histories including, but not limited to, academic achievement, attendance, disciplinary records, performance ratings, complaints or grievances filed against me, and information of a confidential or privileged nature....This authorization...is valid for a 24-month period from the date indicated below..." Among other things, she objected to the open-ended nature of the release form ("...includes but is not limited to..."). 3-x-97

He's repeatedly turned down for work

Bernard was a successful construction contractor for many years. He was seriously injured in 1990 and had to leave his career to be retrained for desk work. When he completed training, he attempted to find work. Even though he has excellent credentials and references, he has not been able to find work for several years. He has often been interviewed, sometimes several times by the same employer. But at the moment when he thinks a job will be offered, he is declined. Bernard wonders if, in the background check process, the record of his brother is mixed with his. He has a twin brother with a similar name whose Social Security number is only one number different from his own. His brother is a drug addict and felon who has spent time in prison. When Bernard has asked personnel officers why he has been turned down, he has not been given an answer. The career counselor from whom he has sought help has advised him that it is useless for him to continue to find work until he can determine the reason for his repeated denials. But unless he can actually be given access to the information that his employers are seeing, he fears he will never know. 5-x-97

"SMART" PHONE FEATURES

The all-knowing computer

Josephine Jones' home loan is with a Texas mortgage company. She called their 800 number to inquire about her loan. Instead of a live human on the line, she got a recorded message. She was shocked when the recorded voice said "Hello Mrs. Jones, what is your account number?" The recording then proceeded to give her specific information about her loan. Josephine was troubled by a couple of things. How did the recorded message know her name? And why were there no additional security precautions taken to prevent someone else from obtaining information about her loan. To answer her first question, we explained that when you call an 800 number, the recipient of the call can potentially know who you are because of a technology called Automatic Number Identification, or ANI. The company's phone system is linked to a computer data base containing phone number and account information. The phone system recognizes the incoming phone number and links it with the name and account information in the computer data base. Regarding security, the mortgage company probably assumes that anyone calling from your phone number is entitled to the account information, a shaky rationale at best. 08-293-96

She wants to block the Call Return feature

Caroline is a psychologist in private practice. She received a call from a client and wasn't able to return it until she got home later in the day. The client has a history of stalking. He used the Call Return feature (*69) and repeatedly called her home phone throughout the night. Caroline called the phone company to find out if the Call Return feature is blockable. She learned it is not. The phone company suggested she use the Call Block feature (*60) in the future to prevent him from calling her. But there would be a fee for this service, and it wouldn't be totally effective. Her client could use telephone service somewhere else and be able to ring through to her line. Another way to circumvent Call Return would be to make calls through an operator, but that would be an extra expense for Caroline. 09-188-96

IDENTITY THEFT

Dishonest employees are doing a number on their victims

Employees of a cellular phone company used customer data to create fraudulent accounts. The bogus accounts were used by them and their friends to ring up thousands of dollars in calls. Some of the victims have hired attorneys to sue the cellular phone company for negligence. One of the victims is an attorney. 07-502-96 M

"We'll take your house if you don't pay."

Sonya's parents are in their 80s. An identity thief has been using her father's Social Security number to make thousands of dollars of purchases. The unpaid accounts have been sent to a collection agency, and the agency is making repeated harassing calls. They have threatened to take her parents' home if they don't pay. The PRC called the collection agency and reminded them of the provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Act. We also called the Federal Trade Commission and reported the practices of the collection company. 07-510-96 M

Two people are working under the same SSN

Alberto learned that someone in another city is working under his Social Security number. The Social Security Administration told him that it was his responsibility, not theirs, to contact the other employer and report the fraud. That employer wrote Alberto a letter stating they have a copy of his birth certificate and driver's license. They were not willing to look into the matter further. Alberto is worried that the imposter is going to commit crimes and saddle him with the criminal record. 08-06-96 M

A dishonest relative

Ann is 72 years old. Her granddaughter, a drug addict, has used Anna's SSN to make over $40,000 in purchases, including two used cars. The granddaughter is currently in jail. Anna is worried she's going to lose her home. 09-79-96

The total identity heist

Graciela has been a victim of identity theft for over 10 years. The imposter has her Social Security number, birth certificate and a driver's license in her name. She has opened up credit card accounts, purchased furniture, bought cars, and even obtained welfare benefits under Graciela's name. The imposter was arrested and jailed for a period of three weeks for welfare fraud. But she was released because the DA's office said there was not enough evidence to detain her. She was arrested twice for driving under the influence of alcohol. Graciela had to go to court and give her fingerprints to prove that it was not she who was DUI. Graciela has seen a picture of the imposter. She is over 50 years of age, weighs over 200 pounds and has tattoos. Graciela is considerably younger and lighter, and has no tattoos. 09-96-118 M

It happened to several in the workplace

Joan works for a large corporation that has several offices in the U.S. A temporary employee, who was later discovered to be a member of a Nigerian fraud ring, gained access to the personnel records containing names, addresses and Social Security numbers. That information was used by gang members to impersonate company employees throughout the country. The imposters opened up numerous new credit cards in their names. Even though the Human Resources Department was aware that a former "temp" had made personnel data available to the crime ring, they did not alert the staff. They said they didn't want to alarm them. Employees learned of it later, after comparing notes with one another and realizing they were all the victims of fraud. 09-157-96

A foolish practice

For a time, a bank asked its employees to put their SSNs on credit card applications of customers so they be credited for their efforts. Laurie's SSN got into the wrong hands, and an imposter used it to open credit card accounts in her name. The bank has since curtailed this practice. 09-421-96

Can't buy a house

For over six years, Caren has been a victim of identity theft. The credit bureaus have placed a fraud alert on her credit report, but that has not stopped the imposter. Caren has not been able to purchase a home because of having a bad credit report. 09-436-96 M

Lesson learned: Cancel unused credit cards

George lives in Texas. Someone in New York has obtained the credit card account number of a credit card he hasn't used in years. The imposter changed the address of the card to his own. So far, the fraudulent charges have exceeded $10,000. 11-62-96 M

There's no excuse

Wanda's purse was stolen. The thief was able to obtain new credit cards using her identification. Wanda was outraged to learn that Mervyn's issued a credit card to the thief, even though her credit report showed the fraud statement. And Macy's issued a credit card even though the imposter gave the wrong date of birth and the wrong phone number. Wanda says there's no excuse for these negligent acts by the department stores. 11-179-96 M

The police department charges money for the police report

Betty has been a victim of identity theft for more than two years. The imposter has a copy of Betty's driver's license. She has a poor driving record, resulting in Betty's driver's license being suspended. She has even received a warning from the insurance company for the citations on her driving record. To add insult to injury, it cost Betty $15 to obtain a copy of the police report. 12-18-96 M

He's gotten the run-around

Ben's passport was stolen. One of the things the imposter did was establish a telephone account in Ben's name. When Ben discovered this, he attempted to place a password on his phone company account, but Pacific Bell would not allow him to do that. To make matters worse, Ben attempted to call the Passport Office to talk with someone there about the theft. But he learned that in order to talk to a human, he would have to call a 900 number which cost $3 a minute. 12-67-96 M

This thief has expensive tastes

Ruth lives in California. An imposter in Tennessee has purchased two cars using her name, one of which was a Mercedes. The imposter has also successfully applied for several credit cards. And she has a Tennessee driver's license with Ruth's name on it. 01-96-97 M

Not the usual situation

Most identity theft victims get little to no help from law enforcement. But Sandra's story is different. The police in her community apprehended the identity thief. That person is now in jail serving a five-year sentence. 01-127-97 MCF

A check-cashing spree

An imposter ordered checks in Joe's name. He wrote numerous checks for cash, totaling more than $20,000. The checks were written in many different jurisdictions. Joe was unable to get any of the police departments to write a police report. 02-112-97

Are the parents liable?

John and Jane Smith's adult daughter obtained credit cards in their name and ran up debts of more than $40,000. She paid the interest fees so as not to alert her parents of her use of the credit cards. But she was not able to keep up the payments, and her parents discovered the debt. One of the credit card companies is demanding that the Smiths pay the bill, given that the debtor is their daughter. But the daughter is not a dependent, and they did not co-sign the cards with her. They do not believe they are liable for the charges. 03-102-97

A bankruptcy in his name

Bernard lives in the Midwest. Someone in Los Angeles has filed bankruptcy in his name. The fraudster had been driving a stolen Jaguar while using his identity. Bernard is trying to buy a house, but has found that it's difficult given the bankruptcy on his credit report. 04-143-97 LNM

A dishonest renter

Meredith rented a room in her home to a woman who found her SSN. She collected the pre-approved offers of credit that were mailed to the house, filled them out in Meredith's name, and obtained 15 credit cards. She watched the mail and retrieved the monthly statements before Meredith saw them. And she paid the minimum amount on the cards. Her debts totaled more than $74,000. The renter no longer lives there, and Meredith is left to sort out the mess herself. She has asked the credit card companies to provide her with photocopies of the application forms, in order to prove that the signature is not her own. She has not been successful in obtaining a single one. 04-146-97

A Social Security number scam

An imposter used Victor's SSN to obtain credit totaling more than $30,000. Victor thought that the easiest way to deal with the problem was to change his own SSN. He read an ad in the newspaper about a company that will obtain a second SSN for $100. So he paid the fee and waited for the SSN to arrive in the mail. But all he got was literature on SSNs, not the number. He realized he had been taken. 04-x-97 M

A warrant for his arrest

Larry learned there's a warrant out for his arrest. A criminal's fingerprint has been linked to Larry's SSN. He found out that the imposter was an acquaintance of his roommate and had accessed Larry's laptop. The fraudster was able to obtain his bank account numbers, SSN and his mother's maiden name. The imposter also saw some of his credit card statements and learned his account numbers. 04-x1-97 M

Her phone service was cut off

Paulette has never had credit cards. She's a young mother with a 20-month old infant. She learned that an imposter had obtained her SSN, date of birth and mother's maiden name and used that information to obtain credit in her name. The imposter purchased, among other things, a $40,000 motor home. The fraudulent bills totaled more than $100,000. The fraudster also obtained telephone service in Paulette's name in another city and didn't pay the bills. To make matters worse, Paulette was going through a divorce when she learned she was the victim of fraud. When her husband moved out of the apartment they shared, he had her phone service cut off. Paulette was not able to obtain new phone service because of the imposter's unpaid bills. She explained her situation to the phone company, but was told her service could not be reconnected for at least a week. The PRC contacted the legal division of Pacific Bell to complain about her situation. We don't know if the PRC's efforts resulted in action, but her service was connected the next day. Paulette learned that the imposter moved to Arizona and obtained a driver's license in her name. She contacted the police department in Phoenix but could not interest them in her case. 05-x-97 M

He has an evil twin

Randall was seriously injured while on the job and had to switch careers from construction to something else. He spent several years to be retrained to work with computers, and then attempted to find employment. On several occasions, he was invited to a second, even a third, interview. But at the last minute, he has been repeatedly turned down for employment. Randall thinks that employers are retrieving the criminal record of his twin brother, a convicted felon, who has a similar name, same date of birth, and a SSN that is one number apart from his. Either that, or his brother's felony convictions have been mixed in with his name. But he has not been able to find a single employer to tell him why he is turned down for work or which data base(s) they use for employment background checks. 05-x1-97 M

The fraud alert didn't help

Robin's wallet was stolen with all her ID and checks in it. The thieves opened up several credit accounts in her name, using her SSN and name and their address. Even after she had fraud alerts put on her credit reports, the thieves were still able to get new credit cards. They even paid a small amount of the balance to continue to use the cards. The total fraud is more than $30,000. Robin recently got married and changed her name. Somehow, the thieves obtained her current address, home and work phone numbers. She is worried they might commit crimes in her name. Robin has tried to get the banks and credit card companies to press charges against the thieves but they are not interested. It frustrates Robin that the credit grantors won't take action. 05-x1-97 M

She lost AFDC because of the thief

Someone in Florida is using Sandy's SSN to work. Sandy is receiving AFDC benefits, but they were cut off because income records show her as having a salary. Sandy lives in California. 06-x-97

A bogus driver's license

Someone was able to get a driver's license with Ted's name and driver's license number, but with the imposter's photo on it. The imposter is using this ID to write bad checks. He has been able to get into the bank account of Ted's business. Among other things, the imposter has obtained cellular phone service under Ted's name. Ted and his wife are attempting to buy a house, but they are having difficulty because there are numerous inquiries on their credit report. 06-x1-97

Higher interest rates are the result

Brandon just bought a car. But he had to pay a higher interest rate. An imposter has been using Brandon's name, SSN and date of birth to obtain credit, giving him a bad credit report. As a result, he is not able to get credit, or must pay a higher rate. 06-x2-97 M

Multiple users of her SSN

Janice attempted to open a checking account, but couldn't because an imposter had a bank account in another state with multiple overdrafts. Janice learned that someone is attempting to purchase a house using her name and SSN. She also learned that several people have used her SSN, dating back to the 1970s. 07-026-97 M

The imposter had a baby under her name

Gina's wallet was stolen when she was going through the security check at the airport in another state. The thief managed to charge $10,000 on her credit cards in just four hours. Even though Gina has reported the theft to all credit card companies and closed her checking and credit accounts, she finds it is taking a long time to regain her financial health. She is trying to purchase a home and can't get approval for a loan. To make matters worse, the thief gave birth the very day of the theft, using Gina's name. So now there's a child in another state in which Gina is listed on the birth certificate as being the mother. 07-x-97 M

The college loan blues

Veronica is a college student in California. She is unable to get a student loan because someone in Michigan is using her identity to open credit card accounts, and even to obtain telephone service. This has been going on since 1992. Two of the credit accounts are not even in her name, just her SSN. The credit grantors do not believe her and are requiring that she prove her residency. 07-094-97 M

She's getting the run-around

Marcia's wallet was stolen. The thief used her driver's license and Social Security number to open up several local phone accounts in her name. They, of course, have not paid the bills, and a collection agency is demanding that Marcia pay off the debt. She has attempted to get a new driver's license number, but the DMV says they will not issue one until she can provide proof that the imposter used her driver's license for fraud. Pacific Bell will not give Marcia the documents she needs to prove she's a victim of fraud. 07 x1-97 M

Is it an inside job?

Tammie learned that she was a victim of identity theft when she got a letter from a credit card company stating they had discovered the fraud. She learned that someone was using her SSN to open credit accounts. After a few months, Tammie learned that her husband's name and SSN have also been used to open fraudulent accounts. Neither's wallet was stolen. Marcia thinks that someone in the company she works for has obtained the information from personnel records. They both work for Home Depot. 07-175-97 M

His wages might be garnished

In 1993, someone in another city collected unemployment benefits under Raul's SSN, totaling $11,000. He didn't discover this until 1996 when he was laid off and tried to apply for unemployment benefits and was denied. Fortunately, his company hired him back when business improved. But now the California Employment Development Department is threatening to garnish his wages, accusing him of collecting unemployment back in 1993 at the same time that he was employed. He has not been able to convince them that he couldn't possibly be in two places at once. 07-x2-97

A dishonest co-worker

Barry works for the Fulton company (not the company's real name). His co-worker Richard gained access to the personnel records, which were stored in unlocked file cabinets in an open area, and obtained Barry's SSN, address and other information. Over the past four years, Richard has obtained dozens of gold and platinum credit cards and charged over $200,000 worth of merchandise. When Barry confronted his employer, they refused to take action. Barry feels they are protecting Richard because he was able to curtail the company's involvement with the union. Richard now works in a Fulton office in another state. He continues to impersonate Barry, and others as well. Barry has not been able to find an attorney to sue the Fulton company or Richard. 09-x-97

He knows where the imposter lives

An imposter has successfully obtained 30 credit cards in Paul's name, totaling more than $15,000 in charges. Paul knows where the imposter lives, but the police won't get involved. He says the credit grantors are lax because they continue to give credit even though he has a fraud alert on his credit reports. Paul is most critical of Experian. He is not able to get through to the fraud department after repeated attempts over several days. 09-84-97 M

Her employer is the perpetrator

Francine was employed for a time as a writer for a publishing company. After Francine left, she found that her employer was using her SSN and driver's license number to obtain credit in her name. A police department detective investigating the case told Francine that the woman has a long history of identity theft spanning many states. 09-126-97 M

The credit grantors were asleep at the wheel

An imposter is using Mark's Social Security number to open several credit card accounts. The imposter was able to obtain credit from three companies where Mark already has credit cards. Mark is astonished that the credit grantors did not check their own records before granting the imposter credit. 09-131-97 M

 



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