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Jewish World Review Feb. 14, 2003 / 12 Adar I, 5763

Art Buchwald

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Consumer Reports

Losing your identity | One of the things people worry about these days is losing their identity. There is something frightening about someone stealing your name and using it to charge everything from bedroom sets to Lexus convertibles.

This how it is done. You order a camera and give your credit card number to a clerk. Someone in the store steals the number and sells it to a gang of Russian thieves in Los Angeles. They, in turn, sell your name to a group of con men in Nigeria, but your identity doesn't stay in Nigeria long. It is traded to a master of forgery in Marseilles who trades it to a gang in Buffalo.

Now your identity is in play.

The Buffalo gang works on the telephone. One of the members says he is you and orders a new motorcycle, a trip to Tahiti, theater tickets to "La Boheme," and gifts adding up to thousands of dollars.

He has a post office box in Ottawa in case someone is trying to track him.

When you get your bill, you call your credit card company.

The credit card contact says, "How do we know you're you?"

You say, "It wasn't me and you can't charge me for all the things I didn't order."

The contact man says, "You are a victim of identity theft, one of the greatest crimes in plastic history. Why didn't you tell us at the beginning that someone else was using your name?"

"That is a poor excuse. I didn't know until I got my statement," you reply.

"If we issue another card, you have to promise not to tell anyone what the number is."

"How can I charge anything if I can't give anyone my number?" you ask.

"You can, but if you use it there is a good chance you could lose your identity again. But not to worry. We will be on the lookout for the person using your card."

"Well, at least I can get back the real me," you say.

"Yes and no. Someone may steal the number on your new card and pretend he is the real you."

"Suppose I get a card in the name of another person so I would have someone else's identity?"

"The people in Buffalo would soon find out about it and you would be swimming with the fishes."

"This must be happening all the time. Isn't there some way you can stop it?"

"People pretending they are other people is one of the oldest scams of the human race, but it has never been more profitable than it is right now. At least your family knows who you are."

"I'm not so sure. The joker with my card charged a mink coat to my account, and when the bill arrived home my wife wouldn't believe me that someone else bought the coat for his girlfriend."

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02/05/03: Whose reality is it?
01/17/03: Foreign Affairs for Dummies
01/15/03: No-news stories
01/13/03: The last pill
01/08/03: Come fly with me
12/20/02: Snooping for America
12/13/02: Give 'til it hurts
12/06/02: Pre-nursery is rough
11/20/02: The Princess and the butler
11/15/02: Preaching democracy
11/04/02: The blame game
10/30/02: The threat of golf
10/11/02: The wives of Hidden Valley
10/04/02: Will the real Saddam stand up?
10/01/02: To shred or not to shred
09/20/02: Plea-bargaining crime
09/17/02: Jack and Jane
09/12/02: Signing books is half the fun
09/10/02: To lose one's center
09/05/02: Moot court
08/29/02: I spy-you-spy
08/27/02: No smoking --- I love you
08/23/02: Ashes to ashes
08/14/02: Wall Street good news
08/09/02: Things in my attic
08/01/02: Damage control
08/01/02: Another icon
07/30/02: Draft all the lawyers
07/25/02: House for rent
07/23/02: Doin' time
07/19/02: The loophole game
07/16/02: Money as a game
07/11/02: Just desserts
07/02/02: So you want to win?
06/19/02: Homeland security parking
06/13/02: The Accused
06/11/02: Don't let them know
06/06/02: The FBI changes its ways
06/04/02: RED ALERT
05/28/02: Malice On Purpose: I'm scared!
05/23/02: Barbie Doll
05/21/02: Why Bermuda?
05/19/02: White collar prisons
05/15/02: Those in depression
05/09/02: Mother's Day in the market
05/07/02: Salary negotiations
04/26/02: Homeland security
04/24/02: The greatest breakthrough
04/18/02: Conflict of Interest
04/15/02: The Sign That Couldn't
04/11/02: It's Cherry Blossom Time
04/08/02: The Young Audience
03/31/02: Safe Deposit for Sale
03/26/02: Au Revoir to Soft Money
03/21/02: Andersen Defense Fund?
03/19/02: Celebrity kickers
03/15/02: A Mickey Mouse solution
03/13/02: Shadow government in the sandbox
03/07/02: The Way It Is
03/05/02: Not telling the truth
03/01/02: Book flogging
02/27/02: The players are mad

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