Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 12:31 pm | Fair 67º

 
 
 
 

Tom Purcell: Identity Theft Is a Calling, But Victimized Consumers Pay for It

Ring, ring.

“Hello, this is Tom.”

“Hi, Tom, I called to thank you.”

“Thank me?”

“Do you remember the data breach at the credit-rating agency Equifax last summer? You were among the 143 million people whose personal data were compromised.”

“I was?”

“That’s right. I gained access to your Social Security number, driver’s license number and credit card accounts.”

“Who are you?”

“Your worst nightmare, Tom. Using your personal information, I opened credit card accounts that funded a spending spree — thousands of dollars, in your name. Cancún is especially relaxing with you footing the bill.”

“You dirty rat.”

“It gets worse, Tom. With your personal information, I located your online bank accounts and drew out all your cash.”

“My bank accounts are password-protected!”

“Good one, Tom. It took less than a minute to crack your code. Only a fool would use ‘123456,’ the worst password for several years running, according to PCWorld. What a rush it was to gamble your savings away in Vegas!”

“You lousy son of a - ”

“I’d also like to thank you for the big fat tax refund. I filed a return in your name. Your fraudulent refund covered my entire tour of Europe!”

“You won’t get away with this, fraudster.”

“Regrettably, Tom, it is you who won’t get away with what I did. I committed dozens of felonies using your driver’s license, which I forged. Skipping out on hotel bills was one of my favorites. The cops will be calling!”

“I’ll sue to get my good name back!”

“That’s a laugh, Tom. Few people have the time or money to hire expensive lawyers to sue big companies like Equifax. As for me, after I’m done pretending to be you, I’ll disappear.”

“There must be something I can do!”

“It’s a little late, Tom, but you should have done three things: Check your credit reports to learn if your information was breached; freeze your credit files, so that credit agencies require your authorization before creditors may access them; and sign up for a credit-monitoring service.”

“Our government should do more to stop criminals like you!”

“Funny you mention that, Tom. According to MarketWatch, President Donald Trump’s administration is exploring ways to replace the Social Security number as a primary means of identification.”

“How will that help?”

“Your Social Security number has more than 40 congressionally approved uses. You can’t drive, vote, apply for a job or open a bank account without revealing that number. A lifelong, unchanging identifier like the Social Security number is a godsend to people like me!”

“I really dislike you, fraudster!”

“The Trump administration wants to replace the Social Security number with modern identification technologies. As MarketWatch reports, ‘the new identifier would be a unique number known only to the user that changes periodically and automatically.’”

“You won’t be able to gain access to it?”

“That’s right, Tom. MarketWatch says it could include ‘biometric identification or non-numerical identifiers like birth date, occupation and other unique facts about an individual.’ Such modern measures will put fraudsters like me out of business.”

“I can’t wait. But right now, I want you to man up and give me two things: your real name and your phone number.”

“Sorry, Tom, but that information is private.”

Tom Purcell, author of Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood and Wicked Is the Whiskey: A Sean McClanahan Mystery, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist, syndicated by Cagle Cartoons. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter: @PurcellTom. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.