Tuesday, November 12, 2013

When Identity Theft Hits Home

My office was quieter than usual when my cell phone buzzed. It was my mother. While it was no surprise for her to call, a mid-morning Thursday call was unusual.

"Hey, Mom. How's it going?"

"Well…" she said, voice cracking. "Not too good."

I could hear her sniffling. As with everything in my life, I labored to hide any shock at her response. In reality, my blood ran cold and I immediately began to rattle through all of the unpleasant possibilities: a death in the family, some terminal disease. But I wasn't even close. 

"Really? What's wrong?"

"Uh…well…your sister was arrested this morning." 

identity theft, personal information, cost, breachOnce again I masked my utter astonishment.

"What? What happened?... For what?"

"They said it was for check fraud!"


Here's what you should know about my sister, Christy. She is a smart, confident, resourceful—and extremely tender-hearted. She was never in trouble growing up. I don't think she's ever even gotten a parking ticket. Needless to say, this situation seemed impossible and was growing stranger by the second.

Identity Theft: The Indignity

First thing that morning, a knock came at Christy's door. Her oldest child, who turned five that day, was the only one awake with her. Her two-year-old daughter and still-nursing infant were asleep. Her husband had left early for work. And at the door were two stern-looking uniformed police officers.

"Hello miss. We're looking for Christy Michelle Pitt?"

"Yes, that's me. How can I help you?"

"We have a warrant for your arrest."

Christy gasped with shock. "For what? I am sorry, but you must have made a mistake!"

Christy did not have the slightest clue what they were there for, but there they were—ready to take her into custody. She sat at the kitchen table pleading with them until our parents came. The officers were nice enough, but they had a warrant and there was no persuading them to ignore it.

After a litany of confused questions and exasperated conversation, it became clear that the charges were for some fraudulent checks written over 7 years before—and that Christy was on her way to jail. They led her to the car alone and in tears while her husband, who had now arrived, tended to the distraught toddlers and a hungry baby.

identity theft, sensitive information, identity protectionChristy spent the entire day in jail with no information other than the fact that some checks were forged and her driver's license number was written on them.

Identity Theft: The Consequences

To this day, Christy remains in litigation and her financial situation grows worse. Before all is said and done, it may cost her upwards of $20,000. And she probably won't see one penny of that money back.

All of this mayhem stemmed from one simple event: her driver's license number got into the wrong hands. It is this realization that helped me better understand the indelible connection between corporate security and personal impact.

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