Police Urge You to be Cautious With Your Social Security Number - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

4/1/04

Police Urge You to be Cautious With Your Social Security Number

NewsChannel 11 found Lubbock police records showing that some thieves are stealing information from relatives, from friends and then using it to open accounts. In this case, with Cox Communication. Some of the victims don't even know who is stealing their social security numbers. Now victims are left cleaning up bad credit reports of bills they say they didn't even rack up.

Cox Communication is initially rejecting service to some Lubbock customers. Customers who have outstanding balances of hundreds of dollars. Balances those customers didn't even know they had.

Identity Theft Protection
U.S. Government's central website for information about identity theft.

It happened to Steve Lauderdale in December. "When I gave them my social security number, they told me I had a previous account with them and they told me I owed them $250. NewsChannel 11 found at least 11 police reports dating back to 2002 in the case of stolen social security numbers.

Victims reported to police that thieves had racked up bills of $480, $171, $581, $900 of debt with Cox. Lubbock Police Detective Terry Sansing says it's getting out of hand. "Someone can just call in with a social security number and it's getting down to where it is not only happening with the cable company, it's cell phones, utilities, all kinds of accounts are opened using information that doesn't belong to them and those accounts aren't verified," said Detective Sansing.

Cox Communication General Manager Connie Wharton says she wasn't aware stolen social numbers were being used.

NewsChannel 11 called Cox just to see how easy it is to set up an account using a false name and someone else's social security number. Wharton told us you can't call on someone's behalf. It's against procedure. "Can I have your social security number?"asked the representative. "This is my husbands OK?" we said. "Can I get his name?" the rep asked. "What's his social?"

"Do I have permission to run a verification under your husbands name?" he asked. "Yes," we answered. What they did was verify the social security number through Equifax, a consumer credit report agency. Wharton says the run credit checks on new customers. "OK results are in no deposit required," the rep said after a couple of minutes.

But what about verifying that information that could potentially be stolen? "Do you verify identification when you see that person once you've taken transaction over the telephone?" NewsChannel 11 asked. "Well, when we do our installs, no we don't," said Connie Wharton, Cox Communication General Manager.

"All our problems could be solved if somebody would take the extra step to verify the information being called in," said Detective Sansing.

Cox Communication does ask customers to come in if the name doesn't match the social security number. However, police are saying that if all ID's are verified, it could protect not only businesses, but consumers as well.

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