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Let the Punishment Fit the Crime, Identity Theft Edition

Summary:
With the the recent Equifax data theft fiasco, I thought of a post I wrote 10 years ago: Based on a conversation I had with reader Debbie, I was thinking about identity theft for the last day or so. I also had a discussion with the Ex-GF (for new readers, that’s my wife) about this; she was the victim of identity theft at one point. Its a big deal in this society, and I think I have a potential solution… If someone steals someone else’s identity, their intention is to benefit from the reputation and credit rating and so forth that derive from the way their victim has conducted him/herself. Perhaps then they should also be required to, well, suffer the consequences for the way their victim conducted him/herself. For example… the Ex-GF had a big pile of

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With the the recent Equifax data theft fiasco, I thought of a post I wrote 10 years ago:

Based on a conversation I had with reader Debbie, I was thinking about identity theft for the last day or so. I also had a discussion with the Ex-GF (for new readers, that’s my wife) about this; she was the victim of identity theft at one point. Its a big deal in this society, and I think I have a potential solution…
If someone steals someone else’s identity, their intention is to benefit from the reputation and credit rating and so forth that derive from the way their victim has conducted him/herself. Perhaps then they should also be required to, well, suffer the consequences for the way their victim conducted him/herself.

For example… the Ex-GF had a big pile of student loans at the time her identity was stolen. Why not make the thief responsible for paying those loans – not directly, of course… perhaps the thief would have to send the Ex-GF in the amount of the payment due every month. Alternatively, the thief would have to send the government an amount equal to that payment every month to compensate society for the losses of that identity theft; the government could then reduce the tax burden on everyone else by the same amount.

Similarly, if the victim of identity theft was proven to be the perpetrator of some crime, such as homicide, the person committing the identity theft could be required to serve part of the time, or perhaps a concurrent sentence.

Such a structure would would add some serious disincentive to those considering committing identity theft. Such a disincentive is really needed… the Ex-GF was able to quickly determine who had stolen her identity, and provided all the necessary evidence to the police. However, because the amount stolen was small, the police declined to do anything. But the time and effort she went through to fix the problem was pretty substantial.

Ten years later, I would kill the paragraph that begins with “For example…” I would also modify the second to last paragraph to read:

If the victim of identity theft was proven to be the perpetrator of some crime, such as homicide, the person committing the identity theft would be required to serve an identical sentence. Ditto those who steal the data in the first place.

Otherwise, I agree with myself.

Mike Kimel
An economist for a large corporation and author of Presimetrics blog and the book Presimetrics: How Democratic and Republican Administrations Measure Up on the Issues We Care About published August, 2010.

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