Identify theft calling

Published 12:34 pm Wednesday, December 6, 2017

by Tom Purcell

Ring, ring.

“Hello, this is Tom.”

“Hi, Tom, I called to thank you.”

“Thank me?”

“Do you remember the data breach at the credit-rating agency Equifax last summer? You were among the 143 million people whose personal data were compromised.”

“I was?”

“That’s right. I gained access to your Social Security number, driver’s license number and credit card accounts.”

“Who are you?”

“Your worst nightmare, Tom. Using your personal information, I opened credit card accounts that funded a spending spree — thousands of dollars, in your name. Cancun is especially relaxing with you footing the bill.”

“You dirty rat.”

“It gets worse, Tom. With your personal information, I located your online bank accounts and drew out all your cash.”

“My bank accounts are password-protected!”

“Good one, Tom. It took less than a minute to crack your code. Only a fool would use ‘123456,’ the worst password for several years running, according to PCWorld. What a rush it was to gamble your savings away in Vegas!”

“You lousy son of a — ”

“I’d also like to thank you for the big fat tax refund. I filed a return in your name. Your fraudulent refund covered my entire tour of Europe!”

“You won’t get away with this, fraudster.”

“Regrettably, Tom, it is you who won’t get away with what I did. I committed dozens of felonies using your driver’s license, which I forged. Skipping out on hotel bills was one of my favorites. The cops will be calling!”

“I’ll sue to get my good name back!”

“That’s a laugh, Tom. Few people have the time or money to hire expensive lawyers to sue big companies like Equifax. As for me, after I’m done pretending to be you, I’ll disappear.”

“There must be something I can do!”

“It’s a little late, Tom, but you should have done three things: Check your credit reports to learn if your information was breached; freeze your credit files, so that credit agencies require your authorization before creditors may access them; and sign up for a credit-monitoring service.”

“Our government should do more to stop criminals like you!”

“Funny you mention that, Tom. According to MarketWatch, the Trump administration is exploring ways to replace the Social Security number as a primary means of identification.”

“How will that help?”

“Your Social Security number has more than 40 congressionally approved uses. You can’t drive, vote, apply for a job or open a bank account without revealing that number. A lifelong, unchanging identifier like the Social Security number is a godsend to people like me!”

“I really dislike you, fraudster!”

“The Trump administration wants to replace the Social Security number with modern identification technologies. As MarketWatch reports, ‘the new identifier would be a unique number known only to the user that changes periodically and automatically.’”

“You won’t be able to gain access to it?”

“That’s right, Tom. MarketWatch says it could include ‘biometric identification or non-numerical identifiers like birth date, occupation, and other unique facts about an individual.’ Such modern measures will put fraudsters like me out of business.”

“I can’t wait. But right now, I want you to man up and give me two things: your real name and your phone number.”

“Sorry, Tom, but that information is private.”

Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood” and “Wicked Is the Whiskey,” a Sean McClanahan mystery novel, both available at, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. Send comments to Tom at