I am a trial lawyer and a partner in a well-respected New York City law firm. I was transfixed by the C-SPAN coverage of testimony on September 16, 1997, before this very Sub- Committee, of private citizens whose identities were stolen. What surprised me was how shockingly similar their experiences were to mine, both in terms of how such events affected their lives and their frustrations in obtaining meaningful attention from law enforcement authorities. I promptly wrote a letter to Senator Bennett thanking him, as I do now, for taking the time to pay attention to a serious -- and I fear in the future far more serious -- problem in an increasingly technologically sophisticated and reliant culture.
My story is rather simple and the implications ominous. On three occasions in 1996 systematic attempts were made to perpetrate fraud on financial institutions and myself simply by the use of my name and social security number.
The first assaults occurred during January and February of 1996, with attempts to obtain credit cards, using my name and social security number, at the Bank of Boston, Fleet Bank and Chevy Chase Federal Savings. In each instance, information was utilized which I have reason to believe was procured through the United States Postal Service. In particular, my social security number was taken off of my Federal Income Tax Forms. Through contacts I have as an attorney, which are not available to the average citizen, I was able to obtain the assistance of the United States Attorney's Office of the Southern District of New York, which I expressly thank, and the United States Postal Inspectors, who acted at the request of the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Unfortunately, even though three fraudulent credit applications were made using my name and social security number by individuals residing in Staten Island, New York, the law enforcement authorities did not follow up on those leads. The Postal Inspectors attempted to investigate the apparent fraud within the Postal Service, but did not seek out to question nor prosecute the individuals who apparently submitted the false credit card applications, even though I provided them with their names and telephone numbers.
The second attack came by the mail. Three letters were written in the months April, July and August 1996, each sent by individuals located in Nigeria, in what has apparently become an all too common scheme. Individuals, misrepresenting that they are connected with divisions of the Nigerian Government, attempt to obtain information regarding domestic bank accounts to perpetrate frauds on individuals and domestic banks. I was unable to obtain the assistance of either the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Secret Service in looking into this problem. They are apparently very aware of the problem. I will note that one of the names I uncovered as apparently involved in the first scheme appears to be that of a Nigerian.
The third attack occurred in May of 1996, and had as its primary cite Los Angeles, California. I was contacted on May 1, 1996 by the Discover Card Security Division. They called to confirm that I was moving to California before they sent my new credit cards to my new address. Needless to say, I was not. I was concerned that someone, perhaps the same criminals, now knew I had a Discover Card. I promptly sought to obtain my credit reports and learned that a fraudulent application for a mortgage was submitted bearing my forged signature and resulting in the release of all of my TRW credit information to the criminals. In spite of the fact that I was able to track down the name of the individual that assisted in perpetrating this fraud, I could not obtain the interest of any law enforcement authorities, including specifically The United States Secret Service, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, The United States Postal Service, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Office and the LAPD.
My life has changed. All of my bank accounts have passwords, all of my credit reports have "alerts" and I will not engage in electronic banking as I fear what the consequences of that might be considering how much is probably known about me by criminal elements. I cannot begin to relate how upsetting this has been personally or explain how debilitating the time I spent protecting myself was to my professional and personal life.
I thank this Committee for understanding that we are dealing with an extremely serious
situation. The growth of electronic banking and Internet commerce is and will be substantially
and adversely affected unless a means of providing secure commercial transactions are found and
law enforcement authorities take matters of identity fraud seriously by providing them with the
attention that they deserve.
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