Lies, Damn Lies and Identity Theft
April 4, 2008 1:07 PM
To those of you who haven't had your identity stolen, just wait your turn!
I'd like to think that someone hacking my identity is another marker of the apocalypse, though the unfortunate reality of identity theft is instead just a game of statistics.
I obtained my first VISA at the ripe age of 17 (almost eight years ago for those playing at home) and found no reason to change the number even after several renewals. Much to my surprise a company called Betamax VOIP charged me 82.25 a few days ago for starting new service in France.
Betamax, I would soon discover, is one of those low-brow operations that sort of exists, but sort of doesn't. It clearly has some kind of voice-over-IP service, but you wouldn't know it from
the postage stamp of a website
-- which supposedly supports hundreds of thousands of customers.
Betamax refused to give me more information about who opened the account, and I'm sure whoever obtained my credit card information to place a call was already long gone anyway. However, since I didn't know my "security code" at Betamax, the company would not terminate the account. VISA, on the other hand, took all of five seconds to reverse the charge and euthanize my elderly credit card.
Betamax it would seem has a few problems with fraud,
as documented in early January on several voice-over-IP forums
A letter today also notified me that someone attempted to open a Capital One credit card in my name on the same day as the Beatamax charge. Capital One promptly and professionally complied with my request to send the fraudster's information to the FBI, and the card was terminated. But what to do now that at least a considerable portion of my identity has been compromised?
I'll go out on a limb and call myself tech-savvy, especially when it comes to privacy. My invoices are all kept on encrypted thumb drives, I don't use personal information on public terminals or public WiFi, and I've never purchased anything online from a vendor that didn't have immaculate credentials. If I can get nailed with identity fraud, who can't?
Don't be alarmed, it's all statistics, as I said. According to Mint.com and my own paperwork, I used that particular card at 98 different ATM locations and 1143 separate vendors. Chase had actually called me last week to let me know my card was being used suspiciously, though I was able to confirm all the charges.
Potentially, thousands of people have come in contact with the personal information on just that credit card. That's not frightening, but consider the fact that Oregon and Washington police peg identity theft as the current number one drug-related crime. Identity theft makes the criminal world go 'round.
Identity theft doesn't come at you like an atom bomb, as foretold by the admitdly hilarious FreeCreditReport.com commercial. Stop and think about all the people that have detailed records of your residence, date of birth, frequent habits: our grocery store, cell phone company, Mint.com. Dare I put Google in such a category?
There's a lot of data out there about you in the world. Although you should keep your guard up as much as possible, somewhere along the line someone will get your personal information. We as a society are way past trying to prevent identity theft and much closer to realisitically coping with it when it occurs.
My entrance into the the new caste of identity-less untouchables has been a mildly uneventful one so far. Chase, VISA and Capital One have been extremely helpful -- and I'm not even a Capital One customer.
For those joining me in the financial version of
The Scarlet Letter
, the best advice I can give you is to be calm. The credit companies are more than happy to work with you to fix as much as they can even if it takes days. Please see the FTC's
excellent identity theft help site if you feel you've been a victim of identity fraud
"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller
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