• United States



How Lori Lee-Savage Got Her Identity Back

Mar 01, 20053 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

Best guess: I pay bills online, and I used an unencrypted wireless modem. I know I had entered my account number and check routing number online.Chapter 1: When She Found OutDecember 1st. I was Christmas shopping on my lunch break. My debit card was rejected twice. On my way back to work, I stopped at the bank. My balance was -$192.Chapter 2: How She ReactedI did freak out. I felt violated. I cried. Just a few tears.Chapter 3: What the Bank Told HerThe manager in the big leather chair said, “I hate to say it, but you look like the next victim of identity theft.” Someone had written 11 checks totalling $3,100. The checks used my real routing and account numbers. They used my last name for a fake company name, Savage and Co. And they were signed with a fake name, June Smith of Statesboro, Ga.Chapter 4: Where June Smith ShoppedHigh-end women’s stores. Book stores. The checks were cashed in Columbus, Ohio.Chapter 5: The Significance of ColumbusIt’s my hometown. The bank kept asking me if someone there I know could have done this. I hadn’t been to Columbus in a year, and my checkbook never leaves my drawer at home. I want to believe that the Columbus thing is a coincidence.Chapter 6: What the Bank DidThey put a hold on my account, and then created a new account for me.Chapter 7: What the Bank Told Lori to DoI had to put fraud alerts out to the Social Security Administration and to all three credit agencies and request monthly credit reports. I had to call a detective and the FBI. I had to request an account activity statement from the bank. They unlocked the account, got the statement and began to reverse the charges.Chapter 8: What the Detective Noticed a Few Days LaterNine more checks worth $1,200 written against the old account. The bank forgot to relock the account.Chapter 9: What the Detective Said About ThatHe told me I shouldn’t worry because I wouldn’t eat the cost. But the retailers eat the cost, and that cost goes back to the consumer. I like shopping. I don’t want to pay higher prices.Chapter 10: Who Let Lori DownEveryone. The wireless vendor for not building in encryption. The retailers for taking the fake checks. The bank for not even noticing the strange account activity, and then forgetting to relock the account. The authorities for not even really trying to catch anyone.Chapter 11: What the Investigation YieldedNothing. The authorities told me the case is pretty much closed. And once my account was repaired, the bank told me that the amount wasn’t large enough for them to research it. Chapter 12: How Lori Lee-Savage Got Her Identity BackI mean, I was cleaned out at Christmastime. Was I angry? Yes. Did I cry? Yes. Then I said, “OK, what do I need to do to change this?” So I bought wireless encryption software. I’m educating myself, learning about the security structure of websites. Oh, and I switched banks.Afterword: The Moral of the StoryI was more upset by the system than I was by the actual act. You want to feel that all these institutions have your back; they don’t. You want to think they can prevent this; they can’t.