Unfortunately for most Americans, identity theft is a horror that’s no longer confined to subplots for James Bond films.
Just ask Amy Krebs. She woke up one day in 2013, receiving a call from a credit card company. It was their fraud department, informing her that someone tried to obtain a credit card in her name.
As Amy Krebs told Forbes:
“When you are a victim of identity theft, you are put in the position of having to prove who you are to a greater extent than the criminal had to to get goods and services. You’re treated like you’re trying to get out of paying for something.
One company wanted me to release the company and its affiliates, representatives agents and employees to contact and obtain information from all references — personal, professional, employers, public agencies, licensing authorities and educational institutions, and it goes on. Here I am, a victim of identity theft, and I have to contact my employer and where I went to school?
One account I found out about from a collection agency, so I then needed to work it out with both the collection agency and the original company. I sent all my information to both entities. They said it would be taken off. Six months later, I get a call from a different collection agency for that same balance with interest. I had to go back through the whole thing.”
Amy is not alone. Especially not now. I’ve written about Equifax – extensively, I might add – and the dark truth is in the data. There are simply too many items protected by too few groups. Equifax alone has to update more than 1 million pieces of data per month. This system of centralized data leaves companies like Equifax vulnerable, and now consumers are the ones paying for it.
Part of this is due to raw technology.
Art Damiao was an ordinary citizen who was actually contacted by his identity robber, ominously telling him, “I am you.”
The dark web had Art’s information on an illegal ebay where other people could buy his Social Security number for a single dollar, a driver’s license for $20, and a full medical record for $1,000.
Police nab only fewer than 5 percent of identity thieves. But another victim, David Lazarus, was one of the lucky ones (relatively speaking). Mr. Lazarus had his identity stolen and immediately received unpaid bills for credit cards and Indian casinos. His ID thief wound up being arrested. However, there was still a problem when he started getting calls from collection agencies – calls that were meant for his attacker.
“It’s one of the most significant problems with identity theft,” said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy for San Diego’s Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. “Once your information gets out there, it can stay out there.”
Even though David had found justice against his attacker, the crime itself lingered. Information, such as the kind companies like Equifax deal in, don’t just keep your information all to themselves. They collect what they can from banks, and mortgage services, just to name a few. But then they sell that data to lenders. So whatever is stolen can’t be given back like your brother’s favorite GI Joe.
Because we belong to many different moving parts in the digital world, even the unusual can be taken over. Consider the story of Kerry Harvey – Harvey’s information was stolen, and then used to setup a fake Facebook account that identified her as a ‘prostitute’.
It’s hard to be feel comforted by much of anything that happens in the digital world. It feels beyond our control and scary – even when attackers just want Apple goods like the rest of us. The best we can do is learn about what protects us, how, and hope the companies that handle our information feel the same way about safety as we do.
If you’re in doubt about where to go, or what to do when it comes to keeping your information more secure, contact the Credit Repairmen about our new identity theft recovery program good for 3-5 years at 210-520-0796.