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Let's say someone has a hold of all the information Equifax had about me.

I'm trying to understand how some of the things people say could go wrong could actually happen:

  1. They could supposedly open a credit card account in my name, right?
    But that requires a home address. If they give a wrong address, it won't match the records. If they give the correct address, then the mail will come to me, not them.

  2. I'm not sure if they could open a bank account in my name (banks also usually ask for a scanned copy of my ID electronically, or a physical copy in person), but in any case, the address problem is still the same as with credit cards.

  3. They can't get a mortgage or anything big, because that requires a copy of my ID, among other things (e.g. documentation for collateral or whatever).

So how do these actually happen? Do companies just forget to check IDs or cross-check names against addresses? Or do thieves bypass these processes somehow?

4

Credit reporting agencies are used to verify credit worthiness, not addresses. Merchants and bankers will generally not check the given address against the address in the credit report. After all, people frequently move, and their new address may not show up in their credit history for months.

Merchants and bankers in the US typically rely on just the date of birth or social security number to establish that the person in front of them is the person referred to in the credit report. Some form of id may be required to establish those two bits of information. Unfortunately, while fake ids aren't trivial to obtain, they are definitely available.

Here is a typical story about an attempt to obtain a loan for $7000 from a Florida financial services company using fake id and identity theft. In that case the loan officer became suspicious and the plan unraveled. You have to bear in mind that these companies make their money by loaning money at interest. If they make the process of establishing identity too arduous, they'll be loosing some honest customers. They really rely on the fact that most people are relatively honest or afraid of the consequences of being caught committing a crime.

  • Do identity thieves usually use fake IDs to make all this work? That seems tough especially since these threats are said to exist even when your driver's license or ID number isn't leaked. Most people say this stuff can be done with only your SSN and DoB, right? So how does that work? – user541686 Sep 10 '17 at 20:51
  • It depends on how cautious the merchant or banker is, which often depends on how large their exposure is. You can apply for many credit cards online without providing any id at all, but they'll open with a very low credit limit. On the other hand opening a bank account or using a card at merchant they may require id. Simply google 'fake id' to see how large the market for fake ids is. – Charles E. Grant Sep 10 '17 at 21:52
  • +1 okay thanks. I think the part of this that answers my question best so far is the fact that they don't always verify your street address, since I always thought they check that in the ID verification process. – user541686 Sep 10 '17 at 21:56
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Your home address is easy enough to find - a simple Google for your name typically does it; also many states allow to look up properties you own by your name, and typically you live in the property you own.

Next step is to order credit cards to that address and then go to the post office, open a PO Box, and forward your mail from the home address to the PO Box - timing is important so you don't realize it before the credit cards come.

Step three is to open the PO Box, take out the credit cards, charge them to the max, and walk away and never come back.

Sure you'll find out you don't get mail anymore and then your post office might be able to tell you that there's a forwarding to a PO Box active for you, but at that time they're already gone with the credit cards.

The only thing I found to protect you is to consistently monitor all the stuff all the time. As long as the US allows people to order things by just reciting your name address and social numbers, it will be loopholes like that (I am referring to my experience from Germany where you have to show a valid government issued ID, in person, before you can do any significant financial transaction - ordering a credit card without having shown your ID is basically impossible).

  • I suppose this would work, but is it actually done? I get the impression most identity thieves would not want to leave an obvious trail like this. Also, wouldn't the post office likely have security cameras that could catch them if this happened? (As in, if you reported it later I feel like they could investigate and identify the guy?) – user541686 Sep 10 '17 at 20:47
  • @Mehrdad , I don't want to make this an instruction sheet for future identity thieves, but you can open an online ID with the post office, and request forwarding there. You need to give your name address and Social Security number of course.... – Aganju Sep 10 '17 at 20:51
  • There are even better ways to do the whole thing but again I don't want to make this an instruction sheet – Aganju Sep 10 '17 at 20:51
  • I mean, I don't expect it has to be an instruction sheet. e.g. the other answer on this page said that they get a fake ID, which (if that's true) would be completely sufficient to answer my question without giving any hint as to how to actually go about it. Hopefully you can do the same thing here? I don't need details but at the same time I hope you can see that I can't really upvote or accept an answer that doesn't give a reasonable overview of the process given that it doesn't answer my question... – user541686 Sep 10 '17 at 21:47

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