Thursday, June 12, 2008

An Identity Already Stolen

None of us would want to have our identity stolen by some devious person who takes our bank account numbers, our credit cards and social security number and wrecks havoc with our financial life. I've had a tatse of it a few years ago and spent many hours on the phone with my bank's fraud department and speaking with detectives trying to fix a mess. It was a world of pain.

A few days ago I'm tossing out my garbage. peer into the dumpster and see unopened financial documents scattered everywhere. Bank statements, Utility bills. Credit card offers. Tax assessments. Stock statements. And these envelopes are all unopened. It's an Identity thief's dream come true.

I start flipping through the letters and realize they belong to someone living close to me. My mind starts wandering: Did he just get so mad at his life that he threw his mail away? Did his roommate or girlfriend do this to him out of anger? I could not figure why anyone would deliberately throw these statements into the garbage.

At least shred them . . . ! Duh! Double duh!

I run into my apartment and grab a Trader Joe's bag and start collecting this person's valuable mail. After a while it dawns on me that if I was to delve into these private papers, I could take over his financial life. Unfortunately, I'm too nice of a person to try to get away with an Identity heist.

With everything stuffed neatly into the shopping bag, I trump up the stairs to this guy's place to return his mail. No one home. He doesn't return for three days. Now I've got this Trader Joe's bag crammed with someone's personal, financial life.

Finally, I see him arrive home; I burst through my front door calling out his name. He stops on the staircase and I tell him about the treasure I found in the dumpster. I had to clarify I am not a dumpster diver. I was trying to be a good neighbor by returning his identity to him.

Then I discovered he had already lost his identity. Barely a" thank you" came out of his mouth. He muttered something about the fact it might not have been a good idea to throw bank statements and credit card offers into a garbage container. He thought for awhile, "I could have shredded them . . ."

I leaped down the stairs with my identity still in tact, grabbed the grocery bag and tossed it up to him. I said, "I was just thinking looking out for you. I was concerned these papers could have fallen into the wrong hands and you'd be a victim of identity theft." Still no reaction. I then asked, "Have you ever been the victim of having someone else go into your financial stuff?" "No!" I responded, "I have and it's hell!"

He proceeded to walk upstairs, mumbling that now he has to shred these documents.

What is identity theft? Is it only relegated to stealing someone's financial records and then going into their accounts and helping yourself to their hard earned cash? Let's take it one step further:

Identity theft takes place when you barely care enough that someone else cares about you. It also takes place when you can't even thank someone who thought enough of you to save your butt from a major disaster.

One more thing. Identity theft has already taken place when you have no street smarts and no desire to wise up and get some before you fall victim to a lot of unsavory characters lurking in the dumpsters of our lives looking for something to steal from us: our self worth, respect or reputation.

Don't become a victim of identity theft. Know who you are as a child of God at all times and refuse to allow evil, stupidity and sheer laziness to steal that precious identity from you.

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