By Brendan Finney, victim advisor, Identity Theft Resource Center
“Hi, I’m having a Problem with Identity Theft?”
Every day, just about every call starts like this. One of the many problems with identity theft is that, since it is such a new crime, most people don’t know what it actually is, or how to approach the issue of dealing with it. The victims I talk to are usually confused on how this could have happened to them, and they feel a strong sense of paranoia because they don’t have any direct information about the perpetrator. This puts me in the position of having to first gain their trust. I have to prove to them that I am trustworthy, and that they can rely on the advice I give them.
If the victim is willing to follow through with taking the first general steps, then I can get an understanding as to whether they are going to be willing to see this whole process through. That is the hard part of the job. Once I had some experience helping victims, I could easily tell whether a particular victim was or was not going to do the work needed in order to recover from their situation. If the caller will not take action to work on their case, then there is little we can do to help them with. These situations are stressful, since I can be of no help to those who won’t help themselves. In the meantime, I may be missing callers who will take the necessary actions to mitigate their case.
Another difficult aspect of the job is when we have to go over the full spectrum of what a victim is dealing with to mitigate their individual case. Sometimes it may be as easy as canceling a credit card, placing a fraud alert, and checking your credit reports. It can also be as difficult and heart breaking as hearing the experience of a teenager applying for college loans only to find out that one of his family members has been using his social security number since he was an infant, and that the request for a loan is going to be delayed or denied because of the fraud.
Every time my phone rings I don’t know what to expect when I connect to the call. Yet at the end of the day, no matter how stressful, I can always feel good that I’m helping people find their way out of very difficult situations.