If there were any bankers still in denial that identity theft is the fastest growing financial crime in the U.S., the November arrest of Phillip Cummings should serve as a loud wake-up call. Stories of identity theft have been rapidly circulating for the past several years, in newspapers and at the water cooler—but none have been the size of the estimated $2.7 million ring with Cummings at its core.
The case, according to Ben Berry, supervisory special agent of the FBI’s bank fraud squad, is the largest instance of financial losses resulting from identity theft in the history of the U.S. And there’s no sign those numbers are going to decrease any time soon. A spokesperson for the Federal Trade Commission says the group, as of September, received almost 120,000 complaints related to identity theft, compared with 85,000 complaints filed in all of 2001.
What’s the reason? “With the advent of the Internet, there’s so much information out there,” says Berry. “I’m not sure that we’ll ever really be able to totally solve this problem of identity theft.”