Georgia teenager James Townsend applied for a Discover credit card under the fictitious name Austin Townsend using a Social Security number that he found online. As it happens, the SS number he gave to acquire the card belongs to an as-of-yet unidentified White House official.
During a hearing, the 17-year-old Townsend was told by the judge that he “messed with the wrong person” when he used the White House official`s information. Federal authorities refused to release the name of the victim, who was identified as “a senior-level executive branch official under the protection of the United States Secret Service,” in court. The cash bond amount set was $1,000. Townsend told the judge that he was “just goofing off.”
The crime was discovered when the credit agency noticed that the Social Security number submitted on the application did not match the name and alerted Secret Service.
“He wanted a Discover card and apparently got on the computer and started Googling different areas and ended up with a particular Social Security number,” explained the Douglas County Chief Deputy Stan Copeland, accordingto Channel 2 Action News.
“He was not Googling any particular person. We don`t think he had any knowledge [of who it was],” Copeland went on to say. Nevertheless, Townsend faces felony charges and could potentially serve up to five years behind bars if convicted of the Identity Theft charges.
Michael Germanovsky, one of Credit-Land.com`s top experts in personal finance offers the following advice for consumers concerned about identity theft, “Unless you are going to a DMV or another government organization, avoid companies that are using Social Security numbers (SSNs) as identifiers for any type of transaction. The SSN should only remain in a database as a secondary identifier. Organizations should exercise limited use of an individual`s SSN.”
Michael goes on to remind of 5 Practices to avoidSocial Security Theft:
- Avoid listing a social security number on internet.
- Avoid sending your SSNs via email
- Avoid using a computer log-in system where a person has to use their SSN
- Avoid carrying ID cards that list SSNs
- Avoid storing SSNs on unprotected computer systems