As you might expect, crooks are using the opportunities afforded by the COVID19 pandemic to increase the number and severity of identify thefts in America. Here are a few sites with statistics on the scope of the problem and some practical steps that you can take to help prevent you from becoming the victim of identify theft.
Although statistics are excellent for helping us get a feel for the frequency and scope of a problem, to get a feel for what it means for the individual who is the victim of identify theft, it might help to imagine what goes on in one particular case.
Ted was about to close the best deal of his life. He handed the papers over to his customer — or perhaps it was his father — or older brother — when, as bad luck would have it, the fire alarm went off. Somehow the fire department arrived immediately but instead of hoses, they were spitting on the fire through tiny straws. He began to scream at them for their inefficiency.
Ted wondered How do they know my name?
“TED! Wake up! You’re having a nightmare!”
Groggily, Ted wrinkled up his eyes and stared at someone who looked remarkably like his wife. He thought, You look just like my wife! Just like! Wait. You are my wife. “Darla?” he said aloud. “What is that blasted noise?”
“That blasted noise is the alarm you set for yourself last night. Remember? You set it early so you’d have time to work on your presentation for your ZOOM meeting this afternoon. Turn it off. I’ll go make coffee. I’ll take it to your office.”
Ted flung his hand over to the nice big, easy-to-slap switch atop his BOSE. He swung his still-athletic body back to the left in time to catch a glimpse of his wife’s wonderful frame silhouetted beneath her sheer nightgown. He smiled. “Perhaps…” he muttered, “but no. I have to get going on that damned presentation.”
By the time Ted sat at his home computer with a hot cup of coffee beside him, he was ready to dive in. “Oh, yes. I wanted to check the news for some timely item to use as an intro.” Ted usually talked aloud as he worked. That was one main reason why, after the kids moved out, they had decided to convert both of the rooms the kiddos had to home offices. As Ted waited for the online WSJ to appear, a broken image shard of firefighters blowing spitballs appeared in his mind’s eye. A frown flickered across his face briefly but he ignored it. “What the f-fudge” he muttered at the fact that they to pick this moment to ask him to enter his userid and password. “Crap! I don’t have time for this.” He gritted his teeth and realized there was no way he remembered his password. Of course not. He thought, I never have to enter the damned thing. He shook his head trying to imagine whether it would be faster to look the damned thing up in his notebook, find the file where he kept his passwords or have them send him a new password via email. Now, what the hell did I call that file? Important stuff? I know I didn’t call it passwords. It’s under documents, personal. Or, documents, work? I — oh screw it. I’ll have them send me e-mail. But which e-mail? Is it my gmail or hotmail account?
Ted knew enough about himself to realize that he needed to stay calm and not let trivialities put him in a bad mood. I’ll try one then the other, he thought. “Easy enough, Ted. Just be patient,” he said aloud. And he was patient.
At least he was patient till he discovered he could not log into either account. Maybe I used my work email, he thought. But that didn’t work either.
Darla had always been able to concentrate pretty well at her own work and ignore Ted’s mutterings. At first, this morning was no different. She delved into her work deeply. Eventually, however, she noticed that he was muttering more loudly and angrily than usual. She sighed, got up and walked over to his office door. Without opening it, she asked, “Ted? Is everything okay? Would you like another cup? Maybe some toast? Ted?”
Ted meanwhile, glanced at his coffee cup, no longer steaming beside him. “Darla? Can you come in a moment?”
Darla came in and knew immediately something was wrong. “What’s up, Ted? You haven’t touched your coffee.”
“Can you get on your computer okay?”
“What? Sure. Something wrong with yours?”
Ted considered. “Well. No, I mean, the computer seems to work, but I can’t get into any of my online accounts. Not the Times; not the Journal; not even either of my email accounts. I mean, I can’t even do my remote log-in to my work account. How is that even possible?”
Darla had read about people suddenly becoming pale and she had always thought it was some sort of literary device. But no. She felt herself go pale and cold. “Ted. Have you tried to log on to our online banking?”
Ted sounded annoyed. “What? No. I don’t have time for that crap. I’ve got to get this presentation ready. That’s the whole reason I got up early. I can’t…you don’t think…oh, crap. Let me try.”
Darla moved in close. She placed a gentle hand on Ted’s shoulder as she peered at his keyboard.
She clenched her teeth; pursed her lips. She sighed.
Just then, Ted’s cellphone rang. “Just what I need. Another interruption!” Ted glanced at the screen. No double someone asking for another charity or political contribution or explaining to me how much I want to buy car repair insurance, he thought. But something made him take the call.
Darla’s hearing was still quite good. She heard both sides. One of their credit cards had been compromised. They had agreed to put a stop on it and another one would be mailed forthwith. Ted had no sooner clicked the call off when another came. Their other credit card was also being misused.
The financial loss and inconvenience of identify theft is certainly bad enough. No need to make it worse.
But let’s nonetheless imagine that it is even worse — much worse.
Identity Theft 2.0:
The doorbell rang. In their current state of confusion and anger, the doorbell felt like a painful electrical shock.
Darla spoke gently to Ted. “I’ll get it.”
Ted meanwhile gulped down his cold coffee. He was too upset to bother to walk the twenty steps it would have taken to warm it up in the microwave. He hoped the cold coffee would at least allow him some clarity to get this straightened out. After all, he still had a presentation to prepare.
Darla re-appeared at the door of Ted’s home office a few moments later. “Ted? There’s a guy at the door who claims to be the real you.”
“WHAT? Well, call the police! Don’t let him in! He’s either in on the Identify Theft or he’s a nut case.”
Darla tilted her head. “Keep your voice down, Ted. He can hear you. He’s in the entry way.”
Ted’s eyes widened. “What?! Are you … what are you talking about? You let a stranger into our house?”
Darla said, “Well, he swears that he is the real Ted and that you are just a fraud. He says he will make everything all right. That we’ll be richer than ever if we play along with him.”
Ted craned his head forward and stared at Darla. His mouth moved but no words came out for awhile. “Are you nuts! Who is this guy?”
“You, Ted. At least that’s what he claims. He’s better than you and richer than you. And, says he’s the real you and you’re the fraud.”
“Darla? Is — does he look like me?” Ted was no shaking his head like a grizzly on the horizon, hoping that motion parallax will clarify the fuzzy images.
Darla smiled, “Oh, no. He doesn’t look anything like you really. He’s much older and overweight. And, he has a — you know — hair thingy.”
Ted wondered for a moment if he was in a nightmare. Or having a psychotic break. He glanced into the corner and his eyes alit on his high school baseball bat. He thought perhaps he should have a weapon. Maybe this interloper was armed. But why they hell had Darla let him in? Claims to be me but doesn’t even look like me? WTAF?
“Darla — let me get this straight. Some stranger comes to the door. He doesn’t look anything like me. He obviously is not me. And, yet you let him into the house? And now you’re not sure whether he’s me or I’m me? Are you nuts? Are you having an affair with him? What’s going on?”
“No, Ted. We’re not having an affair yet. But would it really be an affair if — you know — if he’s you? I know he doesn’t look like you. He doesn’t sound much like you either. But he says he’s you and that you are a fraud, so who’s to know really?”
And it’s precisely the kind of Identity that is happening in America right this very minute. Just because someone claims to be the Republican Party doesn’t mean that they are the Republican Party.
And America’s liberals, sadly, are fostering this preposterous lie. A short few months ago, we had a secure, free, fair election in America. That election was not supervised just by Democrats. It was supervised, as always, by Republicans and Democrats working together all across the country. The election was contested by absurd lawsuits thrown out by both Republican and Democratic judges.
A very small, but consistently lying group of people are claiming that they are the “real Republicans” while Democrats and Liberals are saying, “See you can’t trust the Republicans!”
You can’t trust insurrectionists. You can’t trust liars. And one of the things that they lie about is that they are Republicans. They are not. They do not have a platform, or a set of programs, or a philosophy that is consistent with a conservative take on America.
The insurrectionists are nothing more than an extended Crime Family. That’s bad enough. But don’t put wind in their sails by agreeing that these insurrectionist liars constitute the Republican Party. They don’t. Sadly, they’ve screamed the lie so insistently and consistently that many — but by no means all — Republicans now believe that pack of lies. Importantly, most of the Republicans who were actually involved in running the election do not believe in the big lie.
The Big Lie, of course, is a classic technique that dictators use to come to power including dictators of the Communist stripe like Stalin and dictators of the Fascist stripe like Mussolini and Hitler. Don’t fall for the Big Lie. But don’t fall for the Identify Theft either. Most of the people who believe the Big Lie only do so because the Big Lie is claimed by people who claim that they are Republicans. But they are not.
No previous POTUS, Republican or Democrat, made every important decision so that it benefited a foreign dictator. No previous POTUS, Republican or Democrat, actively worked to isolate us from our allies. No previous POTUS, Democrat or Republican, steeped themselves in corruption from stem to stern; from left to right; from top to bottom. No previous POTUS of any party replaced experienced, patriotic experts throughout government with inept lackeys. No previous POTUS, Republican or Democrat, ignored facts in order to promote lies that killed Americans by the hundreds of thousands.
Once upon a time, it is true, some of the Trumputinists were Republicans. But just because they once were does not mean that they legitimately get to keep calling themselves “Republicans.” I was once a teenager. That doesn’t make it true to call myself one now.
They have no Republican platform. They have no Republican philosophy. They have no commitment to American Democracy. They are not Republicans. They merely want to steal the Identity of the Republican Party so that they will have grass roots support from people who have been life-long Republicans.
Don’t support; don’t vote for; don’t send money to Trumputinists out to destroy our democracy simply because they call themselves “Republicans.” The Trumputinists are a Crime Family.
Of course, Identify Theft in the political domain is not new. The dictatorial Stalinist empire was called “The USSR — The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.” It wasn’t really a union at all. None of the constituents were themselves actual republics. And all of them ceded wealth and power to Russia. Similarly mis-named are the names of most dictatorships today which generally contain the word “Republic.” They are not. North Korea goes so far as to call itself a “Democratic Republic.” It’s not a Republic nor does it have more than the thinnest thread of democracy. At least the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia just comes right out and says it: “Kingdom.”
As a matter of fact, the Trumputinists who call themselves the “Republican Party” are lying about both words. Not only are they not Republicans; they are not a Party either!
It isn’t really a “Party” when only one person is invited and everyone else is there to serve that one guest!
My Cousin Bobby. (Anyone can be conned).