Most of us think we know some of the possible consequences of identity theft. We know that scammers who get our personal information, especially that nugget of gold that is our social security number, can use that information to apply for credit cards or maybe even get utilities or a phone bill. . But the reach of some impersonation schemes can be much, much greater.
For example: someone using a stolen identity walks into a car dealership and buys a $70,000 Land Rover, leaves the lot. It’s not a particularly difficult thing to do, given the right tools. Now, the car dealer won’t take anyone’s word for it when they ask to fund that $70,000 ride. You must produce an identity document. Thus, the criminal acquires the personal information of a person with good credit. Using this information and $100, they can buy an Iowa driver’s license online, shipped from China. In appearance, the license will be indistinguishable from any other issued at the driver’s license station.
The car dealer, or their lender, will perform a credit check on this stolen identity and approve the car loan.
Well, how long can someone drive around in a $70,000 Land Rover bought with a fake ID? Longer than you think. It may take two or three months before the car dealership or lender realizes they have been duped. In the meantime, scammers can change the vehicle identification number and fabricate a counterfeit title. They can take the counterfeit title to another state and tag the Land Rover there, thus obtaining a “clean” title, and then advertise the Land Rover for sale at a sizable discount on Facebook Marketplace or another online auction site, where it quickly sells out to a bargain hunter.
The scheme only begins to fall apart when the lender realizes that no one is paying for that ride. Thus, the lender begins the process of tracking down the unfortunate soul whose identity the criminals have stolen from the car dealership. This person begins to receive calls and mail, demanding payment from the Land Rover.
How do you prevent yourself from being the recipient of these surprising calls demanding payment? If you’ve ever needed more reasons to freeze your credit, this might be it. Criminals would have found it nearly impossible to pull this off on someone with a credit freeze. No lender will extend credit, especially $70,000 of credit, without a credit check. And a freeze means no credit check.
What does it take to get a credit freeze? You should contact each of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Ask for a credit freeze. You can also do it very quickly online. I recommend this route rather than calling. These gels are free and stay put until you lift them. They do not affect any of your current credit accounts.
I also recommend that everyone periodically perform a credit history on themselves. You can do it quickly at www.annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228. This credit history will show any credit record granted to you, so it serves as a check on what is happening on our credit records. And credit history is also free.
CONTACT SENIORS VS. CRIMINALITY
Let me know about any scams, cheats or other scams you come across. Most of what I learn, I learn from you. Contact me at Seniors vs Crime, Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, 242-9211, Ext. 4433, or email me at [email protected]
Randy Meier is the director of Seniors vs. Crime, which operates in conjunction with the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office.