Identity Theft Case Files
Source: Ontario Information and Privacy Commission
A young secretary spent years trying to clear her name after a tax evader got hold of her SIN card, which the secretary had never received. The imposter used the secretary's name and SIN to move from job to job and collect unemployment insurance, health benefits, and maternity benefits -- all without paying any taxes. The secretary was continually harassed by the government to settle "her" unpaid income taxes. Revenue Canada even garnisheed her bank account and earnings. The victim had to travel to each of the thief's six former employers, pleading for written statements to prove to tax officials that she herself had never worked there.
Using someone else's birth certificate and SIN card, a Vancouver man managed to obtain a photo ID card from the British Columbia government. He later used these three pieces of identification to open fraudulent bank accounts. He then proceeded to steal over $170,000 from several banks. This was done primarily by depositing bogus cheques into the accounts and immediately withdrawing the money through ATMs.
A Parisian woman whose ID card had been stolen, later found records indicating, much to her surprise, that she had been "married" for four years to a man she had never met. Once her "husband" had obtained French citizenship, he divorced her.
In a multi-victim fraud case, a teacher opened fraudulent credit card accounts and stole $43,000 worth of merchandise using the names and SSNs of his students and colleagues. The thief took the personal information from a class list and from pay stubs stolen out of campus mailboxes. The victims had to persuade the three national credit bureaus to delete the fraudulent data from their credit reports permanently. They also asked that creditors be alerted not to extend credit in their names unless they first confirmed that the victims themselves were the ones opening the accounts.
When a disabled telecommuter received her credit report from TRW,(14) it was seven pages long and had over 15 past due fraudulent accounts. There was also a judgment against her from an eviction that had taken place from an apartment. Later, she also received notice that she had defaulted on a loan. When she went to file criminal charges against her identity thief, the local sheriff's department said that the case would probably never be looked at because there were only two detectives and "it was not as important as a murder." TRW required that she prove to the 15 creditors herself that she had filed a criminal report by sending them notarized statements (at a cost of $10 each). None of the creditors prosecuted the thief, however, because they said it was not financially worthwhile to do so.
A year after her SSN was stolen, a former Californian was denied a mortgage because of numerous delinquent accounts appearing on her credit reports. After months of struggle, she succeeded in getting TRW to delete the false entries, only to see them reappear half a year later. Both Equifax and Trans Union misplaced her files and failed to remove as many as nine of the original 12 false entries. Adding insult to injury, Trans Union even hinted that the victim herself was the perpetrator.
The victim's bad credit report also affected her husband, whose Visa card was consequently not renewed. She ended up suing the three credit bureaus for their abusive practices, testifying in court that creditors were calling her "at all hours of the day and night," and did not stop doing so until she moved to another state. Trans Union argued that systemic improvements to ensure maximum accuracy were costly and that credit bureaus had no way to differentiate between genuine victims and consumers who themselves were committing fraud.
After years of turmoil, a Texas couple won a $1.45 million lawsuit against their identity thief for invasion of privacy, defamation, and a host of other charges. However, given the offender's paltry assets, this may have been a hollow victory. The offender was a former loans officer who had obtained the couple's personal information by using the bank's credit terminal to access their credit report. Using their SSNs, address, and financial account information, the thief opened 21 finance, gas and other credit accounts totalling approximately $50,000. In a separate action, the couple also sued 13 credit bureaus, collection agencies, banks, stores and other creditors involved in the case, for violations of privacy, defamation, and other charges.
After her military security clearance was suddenly suspended, an army employee discovered that a relative had stolen her identity and opened several fraudulent accounts. In an effort to clear herself, she paid off $30,000 in fraudulent debts. She then quit her job to go to a new one paying $30,000 a year, but the offer was subsequently withdrawn after the prospective new employer saw her credit report. As a result, she was left jobless and unable to hold on to her apartment. She was also unable to obtain any sort of government assistance or financial assistance from the credit bureaus involved. Ultimately, she had to leave the country because the only employment she was able to secure was in Korea.
From an organization perspective, in a 1994 case, more than $300,000 was stolen from financial institutions using signatures and other personal information extracted from bank dumpsters. It has also been found that most credit report database intrusions may be traced back to authorized terminals, not external hackers.