Rip-off artist catch-and-release

Here’s a nice story about a woman striking back at identity theft. She was robbed of $9,000 in 3 days (with even more long term grief) by a sleazoid who got financial information by breaking into her mail — and then she spotted the thief (recognized from a security camera photo) and got her arrested after chasing her on foot. A happy ending!

Happy, that is, until you learn the conclusion of the court trial. The thief was given probation. She’d perpetrated her crimes while on probation, so this seems like a particularly futile sentence.

It’s not an entirely pleasant prospect. Read the article for some common-sense suggestions at the end on how to avoid identity theft in the first place.

(via De Rerum Natura)


  1. chris rattis says

    You should have mentioned that after the trial, she was turned over to another county’s sheriff department for another outstanding fraud warrant there too.

  2. jimBOB says

    The obvious way to cut down on identity theft is to put a larger share of the aggravation onto the card issuers. There’s no reason individuals should end up being held responsible for Visa/MasterCard’s lax security. Make the mistaken issuer of the cards liable for a hefty hourly payment to the theft victims for time spent straightening out the mess (recoverable from the thieves themselves, if they catch them). I suspect much of the problem would disappear quickly, as the credit card companies would have a strong incentive to verify that whoever is getting a card is who they say they are.

    Of course, this would probably mean you’d have to jump through a few more hoops to get a card (like having to show up personally to pick of your card), but I think that’d be a small price to pay for getting rid of most ID theft.

  3. gerald spezio says

    The best client for the lawyer/judge elite is a rich person in big trouble. If the perpetrator is adequately “hot”, she can always meet with the judge in private and discuss how “dalaw” works. It is part of “setting the fee.” Your lawyer can set it all up for you.

    Not too long ago in Jacksonville Florida sweet baby movie star, Linda Blair, was apprehended coking and stroking it up in a hotel with several well endowed males. She was supposedly fixed up at a resort with the black robed lawyer/judge. After being completely satisfied with all the legal proceedings the lawyer/judge promptly released her. Said the judge; “She was really terrific in all this.”

  4. One Eyed Jack says

    “You should have mentioned that after the trial, she was turned over to another county’s sheriff department for another outstanding fraud warrant there too.”

    Where they will do what? Put her on special, double-secret probation?

    Give me a break.

    I’ve got an idea. Place offenders like this in work farms (that’s right, work farms). They can earn money to pay for their own incarceration. Anything above that goes to repay the victims. I say they keep working until everything is paid back, including damages for pain and suffering.


  5. says

    oh, let’s see… social security and state agency hard copies of records left in boxes outside dumpsters… credit card companies with shady employees… I even knew an employee at BC/BS who used to pull the records of the guys she dated… Let’s face it. No matter WHAT you do your information isn’t safe. While we don’t have to HAND it over to crooks, we can’t be sure someone else won’t.

    I have to agree. Banks and credit card companies should be more responsible in verifying the identity of the client before issuing a card, but I’m not sure there’s a whole heck of a lot that can be done ultimately. My son, for instance… comes home to find that his girlfriend and baby-mama has moved another guy in, and his stuff out. But his files are all missing, including his birth certificate and social security card. And now apparently there is two of him: one living in Buffalo and one here. It’s going to be a LONG ROAD for him to recover his identity, and he’s only 22.

  6. jimBOB says

    but I’m not sure there’s a whole heck of a lot that can be done ultimately.

    Biometrics, baby. If you have to show up and produce your actual body, not many ID thieves will be able to defeat that. And the ones that try will be right there to be apprehended.

  7. says

    Best answer I’ve seen is to allow victims of identity theft to sue information brokers for consequential damages. In other words, if I don’t get a job because of an inaccurate report from (say) Equifax, I can sue them for the value of the job I didn’t get.

    Big companies *hate* consequential damages. That’s why you’ll see an explicit refusal of consequential liability in every EULA on the Net.

    Remember, credit card companies carefully balance the money they lose from credit card fraud with the the money that they’d have to spend to prevent that fraud. The way to change the equation is to change the cost.

  8. John C. Randolph says

    Making the CC companies bear the cost is a great idea, the only trouble is that they spend far more money on greasing politicians than all of the victims of criminal impersonation do. Which way do you think that’s going to play out?


  9. Nicole TWN says

    >Biometrics, baby. If you have to show up and produce your actual body, not many ID thieves will be able to defeat that.

    Tempting as biometrics seems, the crooks would just change the reference data to match their own. Notice how, in the linked story, the crook was able to get an OFFICIAL STATE ID with her picture and her victim’s personal information. If biometrics are in force, the crook’s task is still pretty much the same: this time, it’s to get an official state ID with her own biometric information and her victim’s personal information. For the victim, this turns the identity theft nightmare into one of Kafka-esque proportions.

    And that’s to say nothing of fooling the scanner itself. The accurate ones tend to be 1) slow and 2) a right pain; and the ones that are cheaper and more convenient are also much easier to fool. One study got a 50% success rate at fooling a thumbprint scanner with Play-Doh or Silly Putty (to capture a thumbprint) and extra-strength Jell-O (to make a fake thumb).

    You may accuse me of tearing down solutions without offering any of my own. The truth is, I don’t HAVE a great solution to offer–and I’m a computer security professional. Coming down on identity thieves like the provebial ton of bricks (frikkin’ PROBATION?! Federal time! HARD Federal time!) would help. Making the credit recording bureaus legally responsible for the accuracy of the information they keep would be GREAT. Unfortunately, it’s about as likely as… um… something really unlikely.

  10. anon says

    Much of the identity theft conducted by individuals (as opposed to conducted by organized crime) is to support a math habit. For some reason, tweakers are really into identity theft as a means to pay for drugs. As a result, a mass cull of tweakers would greatly diminish the ID theft problem.

    Meth addiction cannot be reliably treated and meth heads are so widely destructive to society that there’s no good reason not to shoot all of them in the back of the neck and have done with it.