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Theft of Identity Issues: My Thoughts

Hilarious This American Life episode about a woman who tries to get a wrong phone charge on MCI/Worldcom. It’s a real audio file, and you have to start listening at the 34:30 minute mark. The segment lasts for 20 minutes. Of course, Ira Glass treats the whole problem with a humorous light touch. There are several problems with the whole episode:

  • Telephone calls accomplish little because consumer can’t keep a record of what was said. On the other hand, companies do have recordings of what was said–and you better believe that they can go back to the original recording if they need to.
  • It is one thing for a company to report something incorrectly on a credit report. But the effort to get these charges reversed does involve company time and money. Accordingly, they will treat this task as bottom priority. I conclude that the consumer needs to live with a certain amount of errors on their credit report s; how much does genuine accuracy cost you in terms of inconvenience?
  • Someone needs to invent a form letter for disputing an incorrect charge. Ideally, it should be a form on a website.
  • I find it hard to believe that companies can’t close an account when they see that an account has run up to over (for example) $200. It’s easy for company billing systems to do this; the fact they cannot points to flaws in the company’s billing management system, not the general security of finances.
  • We need a way for companies to be penalized when they fail to correct these errors. Right now, there is no way to punish companies aside from not patronizing them anymore. But after a while, you run out of companies to patronize. I was a victim of theft of identity with ATT and Tmobile. After a while, I won’t have another phone company I can choose.

Well, there’s always skype. See this excellent rundown by Peter Jacobson about Voice over IP services

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