Friday Night Story

Theft at the Speed of Bureaucracy

To some extent it was my own damned fault. My car was an old Honda, renowned for the ease of breaking into them, and it had been burgled at my father’s house once before. So I shouldn’t have left my backpack in the car, with my vacation check and my W2 in it.

I called 911, and they took down my number and said a detective would get in touch with me the next day. He left a message, and when I called back, he told me I would have to file with the county, and gave me another number. I got ahold of Social Security, and requested a Social Security Statement, to see if anyone was attempting to use my social security number; I was told it would arrive by mail in two to four weeks.

I checked into having my Social Security number changed, but this can only be done after documented attempts at identity theft. I checked with the three credit reporting bureaus to see about putting a security freeze on my name. I was told to wait until I had a copy of the police report, and to send the request through the mail. Upon receipt and verification of my information, a freeze would take place after three business days. I visited the FTC’s Identity Theft web site, and found that it was down for updating, and would not be up for several days.

I got in touch with my work, and requested that they stop payment on my check. After a series of telephone conversations, it became apparent that the stop payment would not go into effect until after another round of emails, and wouldn’t occur until tomorrow. Human Resources said they would get back to me on Friday about the forms to request an extra W2.

In the information age, when knowledge is fired at the speed of light down fiber optic cables, identity theft doesn’t have to happen quickly at all: it just has to happen faster than the speed of bureaucracy.

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