Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Guard thy Social Security number!

Identity Theft….I’ve heard about it. I’ve read about it. I’ve even been warned about it. I’ve just never worried about it because I’ve never had an identity worth stealing. It sounds complicated. This must be a crime that victimizes people with above average income and credit scores of 850…right? WRONG! Try 10 year old children. Yeah that’s right! My 10 year old daughter is a victim of identity theft!

Who would want to steal the identity of a 10 year old? Her Girl Scout troop leader! This woman took my daughter’s Social Security Number and filed a fraudulent tax return in her name. Now the IRS thinks my daughter is a 20 year old model who recently received a $6000.00 return. She did this to some 20 other little girls including her own daughters. Thankfully, she was caught because she was stupid, but it would be an understatement to say that there are several pissed off parents who are wondering “why me”. How could we have prevented this? What the hell does the Girl Scouts of America need with my daughters Social Security Number in the first place?

This woman didn’t stop at the tax fraud. She even obtained credit cards in her two daughter’s names! All in all, she’s taken nearly $80,000.00…and that’s just what we know about now. There’s no telling how much more will be found out as the investigation continues. She laundered the money through the Girl Scout troop’s bank account as “Donations from Anonymous Businesses.” (that’s the stupid part…what business is going to donate money to a non-profit organization and wish to remain “anonymous”?) My wife, unfortunately, is a co-leader for the troop and her name is also on that bank account. Since two signatures are required for withdrawals, she must have also forged my wife’s signature. But because her name is on the account, guess who gets to be the subject of an intrusive IRS audit. Yep…me and mine! Now we got nothing to hide but that doesn’t change the fact that sometime in the near future there will be an IRS agent in my house doing everything short of digging through my underwear drawer trying to find out how we afforded to buy that motorcycle or pay for that vacation. We’re the victims yet we’re going to be thoroughly sniffed by the IRS dogs just to make sure we weren’t involved in some way… all because my wife decided to volunteer to be a co-leader when no other moms would.

This lady is looking at 10-15 years in a Federal Prison for each count and that’s just for the tax fraud. That’s not including the Credit Card fraud, the money laundering or the forgery! How does this happen? A scout leader is supposed to be a trustworthy, upstanding citizen; a wholesome family person who is morally beyond reproach…not a felon!

The computer age has given rise to some of the most innovative conveniences in history. It has also provided an unprecedented level of anonymity, allowing a criminal to increase his or her number of victims exponentially. Why rob a bank when you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home? Why stick a gun in somebody’s face when all you need is a second rate computer and a PO box? What if this lady didn’t have the IQ of a warm rock? What if she was actually smart? She could’ve gotten away with this and no one would have been the wiser until one of these young ladies went to college and tried to get an apartment, auto loan or credit card. By then who would’ve ever suspected her 5th grade Girl Scout leader?