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This chapter is from the book

A Big Problem

Frank Abagnale is a former identity thief who has left, as they say in Star Wars, the dark side of the force and is now a recognized expert on personal security matters. His exploits were described in his book, Catch Me If You Can, which was later made into a hit movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.

In an interview with bankrate.com, he spoke about one of the major problems in fighting identity theft: “Visa and MasterCard have losses amounting to $1.3 billion a year from stolen, forged, altered cards, or those applied for under false pretenses. In the end they will probably raise fees and service charges to recoup these losses.”

Abagnale went on to say, “Banks and corporations have found it is easier to write off a loss than it is to prosecute it. Most district attorneys have a benchmark set and do not prosecute forged checks under $5,000. Most U.S. attorneys have a benchmark of $250,000 before prosecuting white-collar crimes, and the FBI is under a directive not to investigate crimes under $100,000. The problem for the government agencies and municipalities is the lack of manpower and resources to prosecute these crimes.”

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow on Identity Theft

In a speech in June of 2003, Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said, “The wretched depravity of some identity crimes defies the imagination. In a ring stretching from New Jersey to California, a healthcare worker in cahoots with bank insiders and mortgage brokers got the names of terminally ill hospital patients, forged their identities, drained their bank accounts, and then bought houses and cars in their names—stealing their identity and looting their finances. Another recent case involved a rash of scammers posing in military uniforms who visited the wives of soldiers deployed in Iraq. They falsely informed the wives that their husbands had been seriously wounded. The con artists then tried to collect personal information about the soldiers from the distraught wives, to enable the scammers to use the soldiers’ identities and steal the families’ savings.”

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