One of the most common forms of crime these days is identity theft. I spend $20 a month on a program called Lifelock which basically just keeps criminals and illegal aliens from usurping my good name and using it for their own ends. Do I appreciate the fact that I have to spend money to prevent people from pretending to be me? Not really.
That thought has gotten me pondering what sort of punishment is fitting for an identity thief.
I have several proposals for your consideration.
As some of you recall, I once proposed a “One Punishment Fits All” approach to punishment. Under that system, the penalty for identity theft would be death. At this moment, this is the option I’m really rooting for. If you’re going to commit a crime, at least have the decency to be yourself. In the good old days, if you committed a crime, the only person whose fingerprints were left at the scene were yours. With identity theft, someone you’ve never met can take the fall.
A couple of months ago I went to Verizon to add a line to my account. I’ve been a Verizon customer since 1994, and at least for the past 5 or 6 years, my monthly bill is around $365. That’s for multiple lines and Blackberry service, so don’t freak out over that number. The point being, I’ve been a loyal customer spending LOTS of money for their service. Verizon even calls me a VIP customer and I get a bunch of free perks and upgrades.
So anyhow, there I am at the store adding a phone line. We’re talking about a $29 phone and a $9 monthly addition to the cost of my plan. Not a big deal, right? I really thought I’d be in and out of the store within 20 minutes.
Not so. I had a charge-off on my Verizon account. That’s when a creditor tries to collect and ultimately gives up and takes a write off on their taxes instead. I asked how that was possible since I’d only ever had one account and it was current. They told me I had an account in San Diego and that I had failed to pay my $47 bill. I asked them how they could possibly be so stupid. Why would I pay my $365 account every month but let them charge off $47?
They asked me if I’d ever lived in San Diego. Duh. No, I’ve always lived in KANSAS, where you send me my freaking bill every month for the past 15 years!
Then the guy noticed that the name didn’t match mine, either.
So I had to ask…. “So you’re telling me that a guy with a different name and address than me used my social security number to get a Verizon account and YOU DIDN’T NOTICE???”
They hadn’t noticed, and now because Jorge decided his illegal butt needed a Verizon phone, my 20 minute trip to Verizon was turning into a multiple hour nightmare.
Jorge must die.
But I suggested we might have some different punishment options.
How about this: If you commit identity theft and you’re caught, all of your victim’s debt, no matter the amount, gets transferred to you. This seems infinitely fair to me. You mess up my credit, you deserve to have your credit messed up while fixing mine simultaneously. I know, I’m brilliant.
And perhaps my most sinister option, which will leave perps begging for death… Make the identity thief deal with the credit card companies to get your credit report fixed. That’s like life in prison with a bit of torture thrown in.
What do you all suggest?