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Question of the day

Thursday, Jan 27, 2011

* We received a phone call this week from a car salesman in Libertyville. Apparently, somebody had applied for a car loan on the Internet in my wife’s name. The loan was never approved, but the salesman said he knew who the culprit was. However, the salesman adamantly refused to tell us the dastardly fool’s name over the phone, because of various privacy laws.

Needless to say, this greatly puzzled me. They know who a criminal is, but they won’t give us the name? And they didn’t report him to the coppers? What the heck?

So, I called the attorney general’s office. To my amazement, there is no law requiring merchants to report even blatantly obvious attempts at identity theft. The car dealer was also within his rights not to release any information over the phone, according to the AG’s office. Lisa Madigan’s office tried to be helpful, sending us two several-page forms to fill out which they would then mail to the car dealer and he would then mail them the details, which they’d then forward to us. My wife decided that she’d just make the long trek from Springfield to Libertyville herself today and get the information. Whether the cops or anyone else will do something about it is another matter entirely.

* The Question: Have you or a close loved one ever been the victim of identity theft? If so, did you find existing laws adequate? Explain.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Boone Logan Square - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 12:32 pm:

    Yes, which was determined when a person of dissimilar gender and ethnic background was arrested using my identity. In that case, existing laws worked.

  2. - irv & ashland - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 12:36 pm:

    My wife and my aunt and uncle have both been victims of credit card fraud.

    One of things I’ve found most disturbing is the ability of the card companies to pass this off as “identity theft.” What happened wasn’t that the thieves stole my wife’s identity. They stole money from a credit card company to buy things. The credit card company then, in a bit of intentional obtuseness made possible by the law, insisted that the thieves were really my wife until she could prove otherwise.

    If this were still treated as credit card fraud, we would see very little of it. Only the fact that the laws assume the victim is the perpetrator until proven otherwise allows this crime to flourish.

  3. - The Captain - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 12:37 pm:

    Yeah, someone went on a weekend spending spree using my debit card, even though the card was still in my wallet. By Monday morning the bank reversed all the charges and even told me what establishment to stop using my debit card in where they thought the culprit got my number. Wikileaks is apparently ready to slam this bank, but I was very happy with them that day.

  4. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 12:39 pm:

    Just wanted to wish you wife “safe travels” today … the weather up here is snowy, snowy, snowy.

  5. - Jasper - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 12:40 pm:

    Nearly the exact same experience with Dell Computers. They would not give me any information at all about my alleged order including to where it was going to be shipped.

    Lisa Madigan’s office did a nice job with it though.

  6. - frustrated GOP - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 12:43 pm:

    we have had the corp card used by people after it was used at a hotel for rooms. We contacted Verizon, where it was used at a store. We got our money back, of course, but no one could tell me who signed the document. Best part is, I work for Government. Everything is open for inspection.
    oh well
    The same laws that are suppose to protect us, keep us from finding out who the bad guys are.

  7. - Dr. Donald Blake - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 12:45 pm:

    Yes, about 5 years ago, someone used my dad’s credit card to buy themselves a laptop. To the best of my knowledge, they were never found, and everything was straightened out with the cc company. They were your average criminal genius, too, having the laptop shipped…to my dad’s house.

  8. - Cheryl44 - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 12:49 pm:

    I had someone use my debit card (still in my wallet) also. Among other purchases they ordered flowers and joined a Christian dating group,in that order. The bank was great about it, they issued a new card that came very quickly and I never heard if they sent anyone to the address the flowers were delivered to see if that person was the same one who used my debit card number.

  9. - Downstate Illinois - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:05 pm:

    Existing laws may not require the business to release the name to you, but under Illinois law they are required to report the crime to police. Illinois citizens have an affirmative obligation to report a crime. Tell the dealership they they will be could be held liable if they don’t report the matter to authorities.

    Also, since the thief probably doesn’t have any assets to speak of, or might be difficult to identify if not caught, if you should suffer any loss, your attorney will be glad to go after the car dealership for damages since they obviously have more assets.

  10. - heliwoman - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:09 pm:

    I would say the laws are cumbersome. I was the victim and the person(s) opened up store cards in 2 different states and purchased over $12000 worth of stuff. It was discovered when the thieves made a 2nd purchase at the same store. No arrests were made b/c the person who came back to pick up the stuff (appliances) was not the person who signed the receipt. I had to file a police report; then request a FOIA to get a copy of that report; make 5 copies (one for each of the credit card companies); send that off, along with notarized letters stating that it was not me. The amount of work/time/effort that I had to put into it? and the people were never caught to my knowledge.

  11. - Justice - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:10 pm:

    Sure to hear about the hassle Rich, and it is a real hassle. The cost to Credit Card companies and most businesses is just too great to pursue, so, without laws more tuned to this “today’s technology problem”, it will continue to flourish.

    On a side note, I heard that VM’s identity was apparently stolen as there were several reports floating about that he was a wonderful guy?

  12. - amalia - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:22 pm:

    No, thanks goodness. that process seems cumbersome. You should check with the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office to see what they have to say, especially see if the act that took place is a crime. application over the Internet in another’s name, depending on the details, is the criminal issue. you should check it out with the local authorities. yes, it is frustrating that you cannot get the name of your victimizer, but better to have the authorities go after it. ba…..d

  13. - Siriusly - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:24 pm:

    I am so with you Rich. Very disappointing that criminals have some sort perceived of privacy right. What about our rights to protect our selves from known ID thieves?

    I once had someone use my American Express credit card to purchase something from Walmart online, it was shipped to an address in another state. AMEX changed my account number and I wasn’t responsible for the item cost - but like you I wanted to know who used my AMEX. Was it a vendor who I used my card with? Was it a person who done work in or at my house? Was it a relative?

    I filed a police report, pursued this to every feasible end. AMEX and Walmart absolutely refused to provide me with any information about the recipient of the $500+ item “for my own safety.” I’m certain the offender was never pursued by the law.

    For all the talking the retailers banks and credit card companies do about credit fraud, they make themselves major obstacles to prosecuting it.

  14. - Crafty Girl - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:30 pm:

    Yes, to attempted identity theft. No to existing laws being adequate.

    And don’t hold out too much hope that the Libertyville coppers will be that much help. If my experience in SPI is any indiciation, you’ll be hard pressed to even get someone to take a report.

  15. - Thomas Westgard - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:33 pm:

    I have had many clients over the years who got stuck with one kind of identity theft or another. No, existing law doesn’t handle it well, especially when someone gets an arrest or conviction under someone else’s name.

    The ultimate problem is that we have come to equate a number in a computer with an actual person. If the computer says your number came up, you did it, whatever “it” is. DNA and iris scan aren’t really any better, because as soon as they are transmitted into a computer system, they can be copied and faked just like anything else.

  16. - Chicago Cynic - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:34 pm:

    I was the victim of identity theft, but fortunately it was minor and manageable. No lasting damage.

  17. - piling on - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:34 pm:

    Maybe if you buy a brand new car they’ll be more cooperative. Could be an elaborate marketing ploy.

  18. - Chicago Cynic - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:35 pm:

    I should add that I’ve been the victim of quasi-identity theft here with someone posting with my moniker. But that’s been more of a joke than anything else.

  19. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:35 pm:

    Completely inadequate. Someone got hold of my debit card number. They actually paid a direct TV bill and ordered pizza to their house twice amoung other purchases. Could you believe the cops refused to investigate saying there was only one officer assigned to identity theft. They told me to report it to my bank to get the money back.

    If you really want to be a thief and get away with it-identity theft is the way to go. Even if they catch you-it’s a slap or you can move out of state and start again. They won’t extradite.

  20. - train111 - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:45 pm:

    I went to Toronto for business a few years back and used a personal credit card to pay for the room. When the statement came, lo and behold another room at another Toronto hotel of the same chain had been rented using my credit card.
    I called the Hotel and they were very generous. Seems that I wasn’t the only one being dinged and they let on that they knew who was doing it as well. Never found out, but the charges to my card were reversed. The experience was nowhere near as bad as I had feared it would be. The hotel peole were pleasent and took care of the whole matter very quickly.


  21. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:51 pm:

    It was a nightmare!
    My Kindle started downloading Marxist literature from a guy calling himself “VanillaHom” in Paris. This guy spent thousands of Euros on my Amazon account, sending flowers to VanillaWife, yesterday’s tomatoes to Quinn, and a “Banjo Playing For Dummies” to Sheila.

    Worse, it appears I am now a member of a Glenn Beck Appreciation Society, and the Rahm Emanuel Legal Defense team.

    Amazon could not have been nicer. I just called Instapundit, and Dr. Reynolds intervened for me.

  22. - some dude - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:55 pm:

    Did the salesman attempt to verify identity by requesting this week’s password?

  23. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:55 pm:

    I also got some kind of indoor tanning cream called, Boehner’s Beauty Balm.

  24. - some dude - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:56 pm:

    And did the miscreant know to use ALL CAPS?

  25. - OneMan - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 1:58 pm:

    Had someone print up their own versions of my personal checks (so my account info) with the name of a different bank and the name of a company on them with an address that could not be read when the checks were scanned.

    They went shopping at Best Buy and Walmart in Peoria and Bloomington as well as Burlington Coat Factory.

    First we had to figure out where to file the police report. Then had to close the account which resulted in legitimate checks getting returned. Had to contact everyone who got a check returned then had to send one of those check places a letter for each legitimate and illegitimate check explaining what happened.

    When all was said and done we where made more or less financially whole (not sure who ate the bad checks), when I told the police this they informed me that I was now no longer the victim of a crime.

    So I would say no, the laws are not working

  26. - Wumpus - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 2:03 pm:

    Jasper, same thing happened to my wife with Dell. I almost went back to the old apartment building an caught a case.

    Rich, sorry about the car thingee, but it was my surprise to you.

  27. - Honest Abe - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 2:08 pm:

    I received a letter from the Federal Government which informed me that several criminals had been stealing mail from the US Post Office at a Maryland airport and had been convicted and sentenced to spend several years in prison. Their scam was that they would intercept pre-approved credit card applications from the mail and try to open false accounts. Mail addressed to me and thousands of other people was recovered. The criminals were foreign nationals who had obtained work permits and who were employed by the Post Office.

    While I was not harmed directly, I did check all of my credit reports. This was a narrow escape from potential identity theft.

  28. - J - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 2:10 pm:

    Yes. What an ordeal. Someone bought a barely use Suburban on my formerly awesome credit and wrecked it (my credit) for months. There were some additional, smaller headaches, all of which required lots of paperwork, time on the phone and frustration on my part. Now my credit is frozen, and it would take an act of God for me to apply for any new credit.

    The highlight was when the repo man came to my door in the middle of the night asking for the Surburban. I didn’t have it, of course. He had the biggest Maglite I had ever seen.

    To answer the other part of the question, I didn’t even think about the law in that context. I was just worried about cleaning up my credit. I learned I needed to be more careful and not apply for every credit card available just to save 10% or get a free t-shirt. Not worth it.

  29. - Peter Snarker - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 2:17 pm:

    Generally speaking - CSI and similar such shows have led the public to have misconceptions about everyday police work.

    For example, if your bike is stolen, the police wont show up with magic powder to immediately have DNA revealed of the thief. Most likely the “tech” used will be a pen, where they will write down on a piece of paper “Your bike will never be found”.

    Or how about this one… my good friend’s vehicle was stolen in the City. Months later he got a letter from city department of revenue informing him he was a scofflaw with a boot on his vehicle. He looked up the parking tickets and they all were at the same address. He called the police and asked them to check it out. When he called back they said a patrol car had gone by and his car wasnt there anymore.

    He and his wife drove over there themselves, and - sure enough - his car was sitting there with 4 tickets and a boot.

    Police had a stolen car report, but couldnt be bothered to tell him, just ticketing it instead.

    Still, it’s a tough job, he wasnt angry, just a funny “living-in-the-City” story, but boy, was his wife livid!

  30. - Because I say so - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 2:43 pm:

    Slightly off topic but I have a neighbor who used to call my kids when she was at work, and have the run down and grab her credit card bills from her mail box so her husband didn’t see them. She also told me that she got a call from a credit card company saying there was a unusually high amount of purchases on her card. She said “oh, I was in laid up the past few weeks. The charges are all mine but thanks for calling.!

  31. - Behind The Scenes - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 2:58 pm:

    Rich, I’m sorry for your difficulties,and wish your wife safe travel.

    I’ve had an American Express card since 1974. In the last 2 1/2 years, the card had been replaced twice. In the first instance, I received a call from a lady at an up-scale jewelery store in Atlanta(GA)alerting me that the new Rolex watch I had ordered had just been dropped with FedEx for delivery. The thief used my name, my card and ordered it sent to my address! My first call to AMEX resulted in an immediate stop on my account and the issuance of a new card. My second call to the Sheriff’s office resulted in a visit from a deputy and a report being taken. After a long discussion, the only thing we could figure out was somewhere, someone in the delivery chain was probably alerted to watch for that package. The store eventually got the package back and all was well. Just before this past Christmas, AMEX Fraud Services called(and e-mailed)me to determine whether an almost-thousand-dollar charge to was valid and made, in fact, by me. I told them it wasn’t, and they stopped the charge, canceled my card and re-issued a new one. In both cases, AMEX was very specific in explaining when I could expect the new card and what the envelope would look like (it didn’t have the words “American Express” anywhere on it.

    I am a BIG fan of American Express and a happy card holder. (No financial loss to me in either instance.)

  32. - Bonsaso - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 3:00 pm:

    Someone rented an apartment in another town in my name and I found out when the bill collection company came looking for me when they left and owed rent. I filed a police report right away and sent a copy to the company and that was the end of it.

  33. - Beenthere - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 3:01 pm:

    Rich the credit stuff is a pain to fix but you really need to watch out that they do not also file fed an state tax returns in her name this makes the credit stuff seem simple

  34. - PPHS - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 3:06 pm:

    Yep. I had complete identity theft. It was a nightmare. The person was passing herself off as me.

    I had contacts in the State Police office work on it, to no avail.

    This person had an apartment, phone, utilities and a charge card in my name. Eight years later strange addresses and the phone bill are still on my credit report.

  35. - UncleBuck - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 3:19 pm:

    I went through this a few years ago. Someone ordered about $8,000 dollars worth of computer equipment on my credit card. The store called me to confirm the order, which I never ordered. They canceled the order and had information about who might have placed order using my credit card. When I called the credit card company to report it they said they couldn’t do anything because a crime had not been committed yet since the store canceled the order before my credit card was charged. I even had the name, phone number and address where the equipment was being sent to and who ordered it!

  36. - Walter Sobchak - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 3:42 pm:

    Same experience with Dell. The law enforcement flaw is that the companies take care of this themselves: yes they credit your account but they, for the most part, just write it off as the cost of doing business. The Dell people would not tell me who ordered the computer, where it was to be shipped, or if they were going to follow up at all. Nor would they give me enough information to be able to report the fraud to the police.

  37. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 3:49 pm:

    Some jokers used to post here using 47th Ward Democrat and REAL 47th Ward, but other than that, no, I haven’t yet had the pleasure of sharing my identity with strangers.

    Sounds like a nightmare though. There ought to be a law against that. Or something.

  38. - Nice Suit - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 9:31 pm:

    Been There is right on…the tax return angle is a very real, and extremely hard to track crime. You can get services like LifeLock or others-or be hypervigillant about your info.

  39. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Jan 27, 11 @ 9:55 pm:

    Yes, fortunately Sangamon County sheriffs tracked them down.

    Turns out meth-heads who stealyour credit card number from gas stations like to move from hotel-to-hotel ordering pizzas.

    That said, I find these new credit card “safe guards” that i didn’t ask for pretty annoying. Had my card blocked while in AZ because they saw out-of-state charges. “Hello?! I have to inform you of my travel plans in advance? You didn’t see the purchase of the round trip airline ticket?” Common sense, People.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Reader comments closed until Tuesday
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