Identity Theft:
Cases from the PRC Log Files

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September 1, 1995

Too young to have a bad credit report

Cheryl and her 7-year-old daughter went to the bank to open a checking account for the daughter. The bank told Cheryl her daughter had a bad credit report. Someone had been using the child's Social Security number to open credit accounts. Cheryl thinks the imposter might be her ex-husband. 09-438-95

Wrongful hit and run allegation

Someone with the same name and birthdate as Donald was involved in a hit and run case in northern California. The DMV sent notification of the case to Donald's employer. Donald lives in southern California. He has had to spend considerable time and money, including traveling to northern California to appear in court, in order to clear his name. 08-1357-95

Check fraud

Minerva has been a victim of check forgery fraud. The imposter used a computer to create a copy of her checks. He was able to withdraw $6,300 from her checking account to buy a car. He apparently had a copy of her signature, because she says he was able to make it look quite a bit like her own hand. Minerva is upset because the police would not take a police report. They told her they're inundated with fraud cases. Minerva thinks the fraudster works for the check sales company. She recently ordered new checks from the company and it was shortly thereafter that the fraudulent check was cashed. 08-649-95

A mother and son were victimized

Someone has obtained the personal information of both Tanya and her son Randy, including Tanya's mother's maiden name. The imposter has applied for credit in both of their names. Their mail has also been forwarded to the imposter's address. They got no help from the Postal Inspector. And the sheriff's department told them their case was not "worth their time to pursue." So they hired a private investigator. Tanya is upset because "they're responsible citizens" and their good name has been soiled. 08-602-95

Her credit report has been ruined

Someone has been impersonating Jessica for over a year. The imposter apparently has her SSN. She has rented apartments in Jessica's name, then moved out without paying the rent. She has opened telephone accounts, too. Collection agencies have come after Jessica. An unlawful detainer judgement is on her credit report and she has not been able to have it removed. Jessica says this experience has had a psychological impact on, "almost like a rape case." She says people treat her like she's the crook. 08-574-95

The thief's an insider

Someone at Deanna's husband's office got into his personnel record and obtained his SSN to open credit card accounts. They know who the imposter is but can't interest law enforcement authorities in the case. The police say that they are not the victims, but the credit card companies are. They won't do anything. 08-850-95

Doesn't anyone look at IDs anymore?

Wanda's wallet was stolen 6 months ago. The thief used Wanda's credit card to get a $2,000 advance from the bank. The imposter has also cashed 8 of her checks. Wanda says that if anyone had bothered to look at the driver's license, they could easily see it was an imposter. 08-732-95

An ex-renter is the imposter

Larry found out he is a victim of identity theft when he tried to buy a condominium and ordered his credit report. He determined that someone who had rented an apartment from him for 7 years, and who also worked for a credit bureau, had been able to run up many purchases on Larry's credit cards. Larry reported the case to the sheriff's department and learned that there is another case against the imposter. Larry has hired an attorney to handle the case. Now the thief is threatening to sue Larry! 08-865-95

The look-alike imposter

Sara is in danger of being arrested for autoemobile theft. Three years ago her purse was stolen by a co-worker who happens to look a lot like Sara. The imposter bought a car with Sara's ID, she wrote countless bad checks and now has been accused of burglary. Sara received a letter from the District Attorney's office charging her with the crims of burglary, bad check writing and alteration of money orders. She has talked with law enforcement officials who don't believe her story. They're convinced she's the thief. 08-559-95

The thief worked for the Social Security Administration

An employee of the Social Security Administration would look in the data base for people with similar names and years of birth to hers. She then used their SSNs to open up credit accounts. Corinne was victimized by this person, something she discovered when she tried to refinance her house. She contacted her Congressman, federal prosecutors, and the Secret Service. She even testifed in Congress before the Ways and Means Committee in 1992. Corinne sent the PRC information from the hearing. 08-127-95

An unscrupulous father

Jason is 25 years old. When he was a child, his father abandoned the family. He moves around a great deal and uses his son's SSN for credit fraud. Unfortunately, the unpaid bills of the father have become part of Jason's own credit report. Jason thinks that merchants should be required to request a picture ID and proof of age when people pay with credit cards. 07-1279-95

He was double scammed

Peter got the phone call he had always been waiting for. He was told he had won the Lottery's Big Spin. He was asked to give his SSN and driver's license number as verification, which he gave to the caller. The caller told Peter that he would get a check for $50,000, and that a limousine would be sent to his home to pick up him and his wife the next day. When the limo failed to arrive, he started to worry. It wasn't long before fraudulent credit card charges appeared in his name. 07-770-95

Reckless use of SSNs by employer

Peggy called the PRC to complain about a practice of her employer. The ID badges they are all required to wear have their SSNs on the front. She says they are all at risk of identity theft. 07-505-95

A cellular thief

Someone used Janie's Social Security number and driver's license number to open a cellular phone account. The imposter ran up a bill of $3,500. 07-444-95

Why didn't the bank pay attention?

Miki has several different accounts with her bank, including checking and savings. She filled out a pre-approved offer of credit for a bank card and mailed it to the bank. Apparently, the application was apprehended in the mail, ordered the card and changed the address to another state. She wonders why the bank didn't notice that her address on her other accounts did not change. Surely, they should have detected the fraud right away -- but they didn't. In fact, even though she's been a client of the bank for 20 years, they suspected her of wrongdoing. She reported the matter to the police but was told they wouldn't take the report because "she wasn't the victim, the bank was." The bank's collection department called her repeatedly and harassed her for nonpayment. After a great deal of hassle, she cleared up the matter with the bank. Miki thinks they shouldn't send pre-approved offers of credit through the mail. 07-364-95

Multiple credit card fraud

Someone was able to make fraudulent purchases on Kay's 18 credit cards. She doesn't know how the imposter could have gotten the information on her accounts, although it might have been through her mortgage company. She recently bought a house. Kay says she's tired of not being able to get through to the fraud departments of the three credit reporting bureaus. Their phones are always busy. 06-408-95

Major credit card fraud

Gerhard is a physician. Someone was able to learn his SSN and date of birth. They got his driver's license as well. The imposter was able to get into his bank account and order a credit card in Gerhard's name. In all, there was $30,000 in fraud. This all happened while Gerhard was trying to obtain financing for a new house. 06-403-95

Check cashing hassles

Someone is using Tracy's driver's license number to cash bad checks. Tracy had to deal with both Telecheck and Equifax to clear his record. He was told by these companies that they know the identity of the imposter, but they wouldn't reveal that information to Tracy. Tracy is angry that the criminal's identity is being protected, but his own was so easily compromised. 06-331-95

A twisted sense of justice

Eunice's employer hired a CPA firm to do the bookkeeping. Someone from that company stole her personal identification and used it to rent an apartment and get credit. Eunice learned of this when a collection agency contacted her to pay the bills. In a strange turn of events, the imposter went to court and obtained a judgement against Eunice. 05-595-95

The fraudster is now in jail

Brenda's daughter is a victim of fraud. Someone opened up a bank account in her name, bought a car, opened up retail credit card accounts, even had cellular phone service. Brenda's daughter now has a bad credit report. The imposter apparently victimized 5 other women in the same way. Brenda says this has been a "nightmare." The police even knocked on Brenda's door at 5 a.m. looking for her daughter. Thankfully, the imposter is now in jail. 03-107-95

A busy credit spender

Someone from the bank called Antonio to tell him he was delinquent on his car loan. But Antonio had no car loan, so the bank official suggested that he order his credit report. He was shocked to find that an imposter had obtained 18 credit accounts in Antonio's name. He contacted the police, but they were not able to help him. He was able to get help from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service. 02-402-94

A classic wallet heist

Cora was in a parking lot walking to her car, when the person in front of her bumped into her. She apologized, and they all went their separate ways. In her car, Cora realized her wallet had just been stolen. It wasn't long after that when she started receiving letters from creditors asking for payment on purchases she never made. The thief had used her name and another address to get checks issues. The thief also was able to get a new driver's license. Cora said that in clearing up the mess, the credit card companies were the easiest to deal with. The banks were the worst. 02-355-95

A crime ring in another state has his name

Someone in Florida has Joe's TRW and Equifax credit reports. The imposter is able to open credit cards in Joe's name, even though Joe has reported the fraud to the 3 credit reporting bureaus. Joe has compiled a file 1-1/2 inches thick in trying to straighten out this matter. He says "this guy has stolen my life." Joe says the imposter is very sophisticated. He pays off a portion of the monthly bills in order to prolong the use of the credit cards. Joe has the phone number of the imposter and has even talked with him on the phone. 02-242-95

Wrongfully arrested and jailed

Raul, who lives in San Diego, traveled to Tijuana to visit family members. On his way back across the border, he was sent to secondary inspection. There he was told there was a warrant for his arrest -- someone using his SSN was committing crimes under his name. He was transported to San Francisco where he spent 10 days in jail. All the while, Raul professed in innocence. He finally convinced one of the police officers that he was not the crook, which was verified when his fingerprints were taken. He was released from jail, but was stranded in San Francisco without any money. He is suing the city for his wrongful arrest. 02-153-95

Old driver's licenses for the taking

Terrence is a police officer. One day as he was patrolling in his police car, he was called to a DMV storage area by another police officer. There, he found that a man had been apprehended carrying the driver's license of Terrence's own wife. They were recently married and she had gone to the DMV to get a new license with her married name on it. It turns out that the DMV had been discarding old licenses in clear plastic bags, unshredded, outside the storage facility. Local crooks had discovered the gold mine and had availed themselves of this treasure trove. Terrence was shocked that the DMV had not shredded the old licenses and contacted them about it. He was told they couldn't afford shredders for every office in California. 05-692-95

The dumpster diver from hell

Barney is a self-professed privacy nut. One of his pet peeves is that many financial institutions such as banks and brokerage houses don't bother to shred their files before tossing them in the dumpster. He occasionally checks the trash bins behind such institutions, gathers documents from them, and writes letters such as the following to the people whose names and addresses he finds on them. He sends copies of such letters to the institution whose dumpsters he has raided. Here's one of those letters:

"Enclosed are XX brokerage company confirmation sheets for each of you. These were found in the gutter near the XX company office along with numerous other XX documents. With a little additional effort, these documents provide everything a crook needs to work up phony credit cards, checks, drivers license, etc. ... Perhaps you might want to send some towels to XX so that these experienced Financial Consultants can dry off behind the ears...." 12/95

Here's a letter to one of the offending institutions:

"During most of today (Sunday), three plastic bags of waste were left unsecured outside of your side door... Enclosed are a few of the sensitive documents off the top of one of the bags. You will note that one document contains the customer SSN, address, bank account name and ID and a customer signature sample with signature guaranteed by your company. This is everything a crook needs to work up phony credit cards, checks, drivers license etc. Don't you "financial advisers" realize that crosscut shredders have existed for years and that you have a legal responsibility to protect and secure client identification? ..." 07/95

Sam, who lives in a different city from Barney, contacted us about a similar manner. He found hundreds of unshredded credit reports in the trash behind a leasing company. 09-1026-95

Cheryl and her 7-year-old daughter went to the bank to open a checking account for the daughter. The bank told Cheryl her daughter had a bad credit report. Someone had been using the child's Social Security number to open credit accounts.