What You Can Learn About Identity Protection from a Guy Who Pretended to be an NFL Star
A pro football player known for his fancy footwork couldn't evade identity theft—but you can, with a smart game plan.
Chad Johnson is the type of person who isn't easy to forget. With his distinctive style and flamboyant personality, Johnson is among the most recognizable players in recent NFL history. But that didn't stop a scammer from trying to impersonate the football star.
In July, a 25-year-old man who—published news photos clearly show—has no resemblance to the football player walked into a Louis Vuitton store in Aspen and went on a shopping spree with Johnson unknowingly picking up the tab. Accompanied by two partners in crime, the man reportedly gathered up more than $18,000 worth of merchandise and paid for the sale with an Apple Pay account.
Although the high-end brand's stores require customers to provide a "profile ID" to complete a transaction, the man was able to convince the clerk to process the sale under Johnson's name anyway. However, store employees became suspicious and alerted police, who charged the man with identity theft and unauthorized use of a financial transaction device. This was one of the relatively rare cases in which the thief was apprehended quickly, when the potential damage could be contained.
A rapidly growing problem
As a result of this incident, Johnson became one of the estimated 15 million Americans who are the victims of identity theft each year, according to the 2017 Identity Fraud Study. Data shows this type of crime is soaring, with two million more victims in 2016 as compared to just the year before.
The 18K that Johnson almost lost was just a drop in the bucket compared to the $16 billion lost to fraud and identity scams in an average year. Of course, the specific dollar amount involved is often irrelevant to fraud victims, as the true cost is in the anxiety and stress that result from being a target—not to mention the expense and aggravation involved in trying to repair the damage.
Of course, the average fraud victim doesn't have the financial resources and legal support that a successful pro athlete does, and many victims can find themselves financially devastated from the fallout of a fraud incident. It may also take the typical victim much longer to repair the damage done by identity thieves.
That's why the best way to deal with identity theft is to keep it from happening in the first place. Taking preventative actions from the start can help you avoid considerable time, aggravation, and expense. This means choosing a reliable and efficient credit monitoring service. It also helps to favor retailers and merchants who offer an additional safeguard or extra layers of protection—such as requiring a unique (confidential) identifier or personal information.