Who is Victimized by Identity Crime
People at every socio-economic level, regardless of age, race or gender, engaged in a variety of activities and employed in any profession are affected by identity crime.
Consider this story from Chief William Berger at the Palm Bay, Florida Police Department, IACP Past President:
Seldom do we in the law enforcement profession carry the mantel of crime victim. However, that is exactly what happened to this author; I am one of the millions of victims of identity crime.
In the fall of 1997, I was making my holiday shopping purchases, as so many other U.S. citizens do, when a cashier encouraged me to sign up for a store credit card. The incentive to obtain the card was an immediate 20% off my purchase, with the understanding that no other purchases were required. Since the deal was too good to pass up and the store was one of national stature, the decision to sign up appeared to be a no-brainer. Little did I know that my decision would actually lead me to fund international terrorism.
About a month after my purchase, I received my new credit card along with a statement that reflected my discount. I paid the bill, put the card away and never used it again. Two years later, I was shocked to receive another statement reflecting the purchase of automobile insurance from a company that I did not immediately recognize; I have had my auto insurance with the same company for more than 20 years.
I contacted the credit card company and, to my surprise, found that between the date my statement was issued and the time I made the telephone call, more than $6,000 of additional car insurance from four other companies had been charged to my account. The credit card company was diligent in investigating the matter, and after 10 days, they cancelled the card and adjusted my account to reflect a zero balance. As an investigator for most of my police career and as a police chief of 10 years at the time, my curiosity and training prompted me to ask questions and demand answers. Credit card company officials speculated that I was a prime target because the card had stayed dormant for two years and because South Florida, where I live, is a prime location for persons to retire. Many retirees leave active lines of credit open when they die—easy prey for dishonest persons working in the credit industry. (In fact, 19,270 identity crime complaints were reported to the FTC by victims from Florida in 2007, fifth highest among states reporting identity crime to the FTC. These consumer complaints do not represent all identity crimes in Florida).7
In my case, the credit card company officials suspected, but never proved, that some of their employees either gave my information willingly or sold it to individuals who then used the information and credit card numbers to purchase the unauthorized automobile insurance. Later, the credit card company determined, based on past practices, that these persons purchased the automobile insurance to set up scam accidents to generate bogus claims. Authorities determined that the groups that benefited from these scams at the time of my incident in 1999 had ties to terrorist organizations in the Middle East. These groups were using the insurance settlements to fund terrorist activity like the attacks of September 11, 2001.
More victims’ experiences may be viewed by visiting the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse at http://www.privacyrights.org/cases/victim.htm.
7FTC Consumer Fraud and Complaint Data, January – December 2007 - http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/02/fraud.pdf