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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | post

How Not to Be a Successful Identity Thief

by Joe Mason on

From time to time I have mentioned how I sometimes marvel at the resourcefulness of identity thieves and the scams they perpetrate. Today, I would like to examine an example from the opposite end of the spectrum — one from the "how dumb can you be" column.

What follows is thanks to Julia O'Malley at the Anchorage Daily News.

It seems that Chris and Susie Lindford of Anchorage somehow had the number of their debit card at Credit Union 1 compromised. The thief or thieves immediately started to buy and buy, and this rang alarm bells at the credit union. It contacted the Lindfords and, when they said they weren't making the purchases, the card was frozen and shut down. The Lindfords were told a new card with a new number would be issued and they would not be held responsible for any of the purchases.

End of story? Not by a long shot. Within a few days the packages began to arrive at their house.

It seems when the thief did his or her online ordering, the wrong box was checked on the orders — or not checked as the case may be — and the goods were promptly shipped to the card's owner,  the Lindfords.

There was a baseball bat signed by Chipper Jones and a poster-sized, framed, autographed portrait of stock car racer Dale Earnhardt, Jr. In quick order these were followed by an expensive car stereo and an all bells and whistles radar detector. Next came a case of North Face jackets in women's large and men's extra-large sizes. That was followed by a set of martial arts gloves and shin pads. This collection of loot pointed to a young male as the culprit. But then a very expensive linen scrapbook arrived as well as a several hundred dollar women's jacket from New Jersey. The thief also paid some bills and tried to join the Fruit of the Month Club, but this failed when the card was shut down.

Interestingly, when Mrs. Lindford and the credit union did some back checking on the merchandise, they found the orders had been made from phone numbers and from IP addresses in Kansas and Illinois.

Amusing, yes, but on a more serious note, there are any number of lessons that can be learned from this one rather strange incident. The most obvious is that fraudsters need to be a bit more careful when they order. Haste makes waste, and all that. Actually, there are times when the crook does ship to the victim's home hoping to steal the packages off the porch while the victim is at work or away. That likely wasn't the case here — the trip from Illinois to Alaska seems a bit much.

But this also shows how vulnerable credit card numbers and identities can be. The card in question was safely in Mr. Lindford's wallet while it was being widely used. No one can figure out how the Lindfords' card number ended up in the hands of a thief (or thieves) in the Midwest. This episode also shows how easy it is for an identity thief to obtain things with a purloined card.

The Lindfords are now talking with the sellers of the goods about how to return them. Some are saying don't bother; it's more trouble than it's worth. So for the Lindfords it's a sort of belated and strange Christmas.