How Identity Theft Is Like the Ford Pinto

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7 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    Wow. I’m a little stunned. Of course, I knew credit has been cheap the last few years to it was being given out to any and everyone, but I’m shocked that an application with so many obvious errors made it through without anyone even calling him to ask for clarification.

  2. Ken says:

    I, too, am stunned, Joe, but after reading this short summary, I’m not shocked. It really is a purely economic decision on the part of corporations, balancing “responsibility” in the financial sense, and ignoring “responsibility” in the ethical sense. Which shouldn’t be shocking to us. Corporations are generally assumed to have primary “responsibility” to their shareholders, and are generally assumed to take actions to meet that responsibility, which is to return profits.

    It seems that the way our justice system can force corporations to act in a “socially responsibly” way is to provide positive reinforcement for “good acts” and/or negative reinforcement for “bad acts.” This, in turn, will offend those of us who generally like to minimize government intervention into day-to-day business activity, but it’s simply the price we have to pay to provide some protection to the “innocent bystanders.”

    In the example, for instance, Grimmelmann wasn’t a “careless contributor” to the activity, which might make us feel like if he had simply been more careful, the problem wouldn’t have occurred. He had no part in the fraud. He didn’t sign something without reading it carefully. He didn’t lend his name to somebody who then used it for some other purpose. And BTW, if the crook had done a better job filling out the lameass application, spelling his name properly and attempting a reasonable facsimile of Grimmelmann’s signature, then where would we be in assessing blame?

  3. I should add that Kohl’s fraud department was professional and friendly when I reached them. I filed a police report, faxed it to them, and they cancelled the card and released me from any liability all but immediately. The transparency of the forgery may have had something to do with it, of course.

  4. Bruce Boyden says:

    I think I’m with Dan on most of this post, but one figure I’d be curious about is what percentage of legitimate applications for credit contain egregious errors of this sort.

  5. Kelly says:

    I’m not at all surprised. This sort of thing has been going on for a long time.

    Take a look at this story from 2006:
    http://www.cockeyed.com/citizen/creditcard/application.shtml