Theft of identity - it can happen to you or me as the result of as simple a transaction as renting a car.
The other day I was reading a news release from the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office that once again echoed several themes about I have hit on in the past in these blogs.
- Theft of identity - our identities - can happen through no fault of our own
- At times if we want to complete a transaction on the Internet we have to submit personal information.
- There is almost no end to the ingenuity (and at times the technical abilities) of cyber- thieves
The Pennsylvania Attorney General Office has announced the grand jury true bill citing one Michael Taylor who is alleged to have committed offenses including ID theft and 145 counts of Theft by Deception.
What Taylor did is a bit complicated. Dollar Thrifty Car rental allows its corporate clients to rent cars without providing credit cards just by showing a valid driver's license and possessing an authorized billing number (AB#) that is issued to the company.
Taylor contacted the rental company's headquarters and scammed out of them the AB# for Sarcom, Inc a small Oklahoma IT company. Then using that AB# he placed 125 fraudulent rental reservations worth about $117,000 which he then collected for from the renters who he found by word-of-mouth and on the street were happy to get a "discount" on the rentals placed through Taylor. Most did not realize they were doing anything wrong except getting a good deal. Sarcom was left holding the bills.
Taylor also allegedly hit Avis for about $26,000 using the AB# of a small Maryland IT company that he scammed out of Avis' billing department.
Taylor is also charged with ID theft for opening an account at Bloomingdales using some else's personal information and buying $1,300 in merchandise and then trying to return it for cash. A bit of a problem the information belonged to a New York deputy sheriff.
When we rent a car (or in this case set up an account to rent multiple cars) we think nothing of giving away our drivers license number, other personal identification data and our credit card number. We assume the car rental company will hold that information safely.
They usually do, but sometimes either through hacking into a corporate website or sweet talking there was through an employee who is just trying to provide good customer service, that information is compromised.
In the end we probably will not be held liable for what is stolen in our names, but from victims I have talked with many hours will be necessary to clear our accounts and our credit records.
In reality there is not a lot we can do about this except, perhaps, to hope we are never victims. But stories about this kind of theft of identity remind us to carefully check all our account statements every month to ensure no fraudulent transactions are on them