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Identity Theft Is Epidemic


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NY TimesOctober 24, 2004Identity Theft Is Epidemic. Can It Be Stopped?By TIMOTHY L. O'BRIEN PAUSING in the foyer of a comfortable suburban home two days before Halloween in 2002, Kevin Barrows, a special agent with the F.B.I., could not bring himself to open the front door. He and a team of agents had just spent several hours searching every room in the house, in New Rochelle, N.Y., but they were leaving empty-handed. Months of investigating had led Mr. Barrows to believe that someone was orchestrating a huge fraud from the house, yet he had not found a single scrap of evidence.Still, something bothered him about the furniture in one of the bedrooms. It seemed oddly oversized. So he headed back upstairs for a second look, and his attention focused on an expansive canopy over the bed. When he pushed at the draping, he found that it was weighed down with files. They contained reams of confidential financial information about hundreds of individuals whose identities had been pilfered in an intricate scheme that illicitly netted more than $50 million.Two years later, the New Rochelle home has emerged as a linchpin in what federal law enforcement authorities describe as the biggest case of identity theft ever uncovered in the United States. The scheme was essentially masterminded by just two people: Linus Baptiste, who lived in the house and had contacts with a sprawling ring of Nigerian street criminals, and Philip A. Cummings, his former brother-in-law, who worked as a help-desk clerk at a Long Island software company. At least 30,000 people nationwide were victimized, according to law enforcement authorities and court documents."In a lot of ways it could have been the perfect crime," Mr. Barrows, who now works as a private investigator, recalled in a recent interview. "The execution was seamless, and if they had been smart enough not to use a phone line that traced back to that house we probably never would have found them."The Baptiste case and others like it are at the forefront of one of the fastest-growing white-collar crimes in the country. Identity theft involves the most intimate, the most stealthy and perhaps the most intrusive of frauds - the wholesale lifting of someone's financial persona to secure bank loans, credit cards and mortgages in that person's name. Even when the crimes are discovered early, it can take months, sometimes years, for innocent people to restore tattered credit histories. While most consumers usually do not have to pay for illicit purchases on their credit cards, they may be held liable in thefts involving other types of loans. "Ultimately, victims don't have to pay debts incurred by another person, but that's not the point," said Bridget J. Thomas, a homemaker in Prairieville, La., who spent months repairing her credit history in 2002 after a thief appropriated her identity to snare about $65,000 in loans. "It's the sleepless nights, and the time, and the stress you have to go through to clean up your record that really hurts victims."Full story
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the stress you have to go through to clean up your record
Maybe the laws need to be changed to make this an easier task. :huh: Probably easier and more doable than making laws to stop Identity Theft. Not implying that Identity Theft laws shouldn't be enacted but based on the time and effort of developing an anti-SPAM law it could be quite awhile. In the interim, reducing the stress might be a better option.
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  • 4 weeks later...

Those of us active and in-the-know are not immune either. Remember the man in New Jersey that put up a "Draft Dennis Kucinich" site and ran it for several weeks using the name of a well-known conservative in Oklahoma City? Mike Swickey is a conservative (hardly a Kucinich type) and also a privacy consultant (!). For several weeks, this guy used Swickey's name running his website. The story about the "Draft Kucinich" site got picked up by AP and that's when Mike Swickey found he had an "imposter" on the other side of the country running a website pushing something he didn't believe in! You just can't ever tell. Sometimes it's not financially devastating, but it's a simple "borrowing" of your identity, for gag purposes or whatever. It's a mean world out there.

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