Friday, March 28, 2008

The value of one Social Security Number in ID theft

People need to understand how valuable that simple 9 digit social security number really is to an identity thief.

A Chicago area man racked up just under under $300,000 in debt with one womans Social Security number. His purchases included a Range Rover and a home.

Apparently this has been going on since June 2005.

An unfortunate event like this points out how far one person can go with one very crucial piece of information. While most studies point out that losses are generally much smaller, those numbers are averages and will be meaningless to this victim.

She is left picking up the pieces of this man's crime spree. Will she be out the $300,000? Definitely not, but she will be required to file numerous complaints and documents to prove she was not involved or had nothing to do with this crime. She has to exonerate herself first before any financial institution will release her from these debts.

She will spend many hours with various agencies clearing the debris from this. In the end it will cost her time, energy, anxiety, and frustration. She will likely need to take time off from work to handle certain situations.

Will she be out any money? To a large extent no, but what about time from work especially if she is self employed, gas money to travel to a police station to file an affidavit, a trip to a attorneys office, possibly a bank visit, cost of parking an so on. It can add up. Every step of the way will be filled with anger and frustration that she has to go through all this for something that she had nothing to do with.

What she should realize somewhere along this journey, is that people can do things to either avoid this, or prevent it from getting out of control.

This thief obtained her number from somewhere. The fact that he used this one for so long indicates it was likely the only one he had and found it somewhere, either in the mail, trash, on an old document, maybe in a wallet he found or stole.

Where she went wrong was allowing this to go on for 30 months. If she had been actively checking her credit reports, or had a credit freeze placed on her accounts, or fraud alerts put in place, much of this would have been avoided. She should also reflect back on where she may have provided her SSN or lost any personal information.

A little bit of prevention or mitigation would have gone a long way. It is up to you to defend your identity. This unfortunate circumstance with one person and one SSN is why.