Limbo of the Lost

| April 11, 2005

Meyer says he couldn’t thank the manager enough, and the experience taught him a valuable lesson. “Not everyone is a thief, and not everyone is dishonest,” he says.

If possible, retrace your steps. Think of where you last saw the wallet or where it was most likely lost or stolen, and contact that place ASAP. If you cannot get an immediate confirmation that your wallet and all its contents have been found and are safe, assume your wallet is in the wrong hands and start making the other calls. Speed is important. Maybe your wallet is sitting somewhere, and the person you notify can find it before anybody else. And if the wallet is stolen, the thief might hurry to make purchases or withdrawals with the stolen cards.

Protect your identity
A stolen wallet isn’t just inconvenient. Identity theft has various definitions, but it’s basically thieves and scam artists masquerading as their victims to perform a variety of criminal activities. But for truckers it’s especially bad, because they’re often long gone from the scene of the crime or loss before they even know it happened. When they find out, they often must handle the situation from hundreds or thousands of miles away.

By one account, 9.3 million Americans were victims of identity theft last year, and these crimes cost consumers and businesses $52 billion. In recent scandals, villains used the Internet to steal data from companies that sell private information about people. However, most identity theft starts the old-fashioned way – lost or stolen wallets, checkbooks and mail, or a betraying friend.

“I was the victim of identity theft once years ago, and to this day it sometimes comes back to haunt me,” says Bynum Trucking company driver Stephanie Stills of North Texas. “Someone I knew and had actually helped out once stole my wallet, checkbook, driver’s license, credit cards, employee ID, a bunch of jewelry, the whole nine yards,” she says. “She wasted no time writing bad checks, taking cash advances on my credit cards and committing crimes using my identity.”

The Internet actually limits the damage identity thieves can cause, according to the Better Business Bureau. By monitoring their checking and credit accounts online, people can quickly spot irregularities and report them right away.

This can be especially important for owner-operators. Businesses are expected to maintain a higher level of security. For example, it’s more likely that a business will be held liable for written checks, even if they’re stolen. The Internet can help owner-operators with company checkbooks keep a closer eye on their accounts.

Graf believes his decision to use the Internet instead of the phone helped limit the potential damage from the theft of his wallet. Phone lines often have long recordings and on-hold times. Graf says when he got to the bank’s website, “they gave me a choice for either online or phone communication. I chose online because it was faster than calling.” Graf also gives the bank and credit company personnel high marks for limiting the damage. “They were great,” he says. “They went above and beyond the call of duty.”

He also found it easy using the Internet to get a replacement CDL from Arizona. “I just went to the Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles website,” he says. Graf says he had no problem navigating through the website to the screen for replacing a license. “I just requested a replacement,” he says. “They asked for $4. I paid it with the new debit card, and they mailed a new CDL to my address in the states.”

But the thief who stole Stills’ identity struck fast and hard. Even though Stills called police and made a report, she discovered the depth of her problem when she applied for a job. “I was politely informed I had a police record and there was a warrant out for my arrest,” she says.

From there her experience became a nightmare. The police in her small hometown knew her, “and the description of me and the thief didn’t match,” she says. “But they still recommended I go down to the courthouse and have my record verified.” Stills waited all day before finally seeing the judge. “I explained my situation, and the Superior Court issued me a document stating that I had been the victim of identity theft,” she says. “The known thief had committed crimes in my name, issued fraudulent bank drafts, and basically tried to and just about became me.”

“To this day I carry that court document with me, stating I’m not the criminal,” Stills says. “I’m just the person who got taken advantage of.”

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