Identity Theft Solutions
February 24, 2005 3:25 PM   Subscribe

I had a business that I think could be possibly be very lucrative, I'm curious to whether it's actually possible or if anyone does it.

On the radio, they said there is more than 600 hours of paper work involved in getting your identity back after an identity theft. My hypothetical company would do most of the footwork and paperwork for you for a fee. We would also advise people on how to avoid identity theft. Is there anyone that does this already? Is it even possible to do?
posted by drezdn to Law & Government (14 answers total)
There are plenty of free resources telling consumers how to avoid identity theft. These include credit card issuers, credit reporting bureaus, banks, and government web sites.

Could you act for someone in some capacity? I would think that any company or law enforcement agency investigating any sort of ID theft would insist on dealing directly with the aggrieved party. I doubt that you could act on behalf of anyone else in a situation like this. Would you be bonded, insured, licensed?
posted by fixedgear at 3:32 PM on February 24, 2005

Having been a victim of identity theft, I can tell you the last thing I would do would be to entrust anybody with my numbers. Yes, all that paperwork is a hassle, and it would be really nice if you could do it for me... but I am not giving you my social security and credit card numbers. Sorry.
posted by Alylex at 3:33 PM on February 24, 2005

Two of the three major credit firms offer identity theft protection - with identity theft insurance should your it be stolen. Check out Equifax Credit Watch and TransUnion ID Fraud Watch.
posted by ericb at 3:34 PM on February 24, 2005

*your identity*
posted by ericb at 3:36 PM on February 24, 2005

EverydayWealth does something similar.
posted by gd779 at 5:01 PM on February 24, 2005

Ironically, if you were to take care of all the hassle and paperwork of an identity theft victim, you would yourself be committing the crime of identity theft. Plus, no one would trust you anyway.
posted by ac at 5:35 PM on February 24, 2005

Agree with Alylex and others. There's just no way I would trust someone else with all that info, especially if I'd just been burned.
posted by dejah420 at 6:39 PM on February 24, 2005

Response by poster: For some reason I didn't consider that people wouldn't be unwilling to have someone help them for fear of being victimized again.
posted by drezdn at 7:15 PM on February 24, 2005

You could teach a seminar on it. $20/person, make them sign in at the beginning and then spend five minutes getting all the information you can about someone just from their name. It'd be a great scare tactic/ice breaker.

Also, if you wanted to do the paperwork thing, you just have to let people know the hassle of the situation as well as the difficult in dealing with creditors and banks. I don't think it's that bad of an idea and if you've ever been a victim yourself, that's a selling point.
posted by Arch Stanton at 8:13 PM on February 24, 2005

It sounds rather unethical, actually, like "insurance" against robbery sold by organized crime.

I'm sure it could be done ethically, but I doubt you'd get enough trust either way.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 9:10 PM on February 24, 2005

There's a real problem with pricing here (as well as the trust issue, and the issue of finding customers) - how much do you charge? If every case took about the same amount of time, that would be one thing, but 600 hours is probably on the extreme. So a flat charge won't work. But if you charge by the hour, why would (potential and actual) customers not worry that you're exagerating the amount of work you've done. (After all, every case is different, and they have no experience on which to estimate the real amount of time that is needed.)

Finally, consider this: if you did discover a good business model (marketing, trust, fees, etc.), what would prevent others from starting their own businesses and competing with you? (If a person doesn't bring something special to a business -- a talent, lengthy expertise, patents, a business process that is hard to duplicate, or whatever -- then if somehow they've discovered an unmet need, plenty of other people probably will be willing and able to meet that need as well.)
posted by WestCoaster at 9:48 PM on February 24, 2005

WestCoaster makes a good point, too. My mess didn't take anything like 600 hours, it was more like 20 hours on the telephone and reading and writing documents, and 6 months of unrelenting paranoia and worry. Much of what I was doing involved new account numbers, new PINs, and new passwords. I had to prove I was who I said I was (in one way or another) with every phone call. There is no way anyone else could have done it for me.

Now, if I could have paid you to pull your hair out and clench your teeth for me for 6 months, that would have been worth a fortune. :)
posted by Alylex at 11:21 PM on February 24, 2005

I think some of the problems raised here lack legitimacy. Westcoaster's suggestion that if the business model is good then it will lead to other entrants to the sector is true but is no reason not to use that business model, to assume as much would mean no-one ever started a new business. If anything, it should underline why you need to get in their fast and get yourself established (should the model be a valid one of course).

RikiTikiTavi's comparison with crime organisation also seems unfounded. As far as I can see all your intended business would do is to take on customers who are going to have a cost on their resources as a result of crime (e.g. 600 hours, 20 hours, whatever) and gives them the option of giving up other resources (e.g. cash) as a preference. Presumably a rational customer will choose your option only when it is in their best interests to do so, i.e. when it uses less of their resources.

The point about variability of time taken to address each identity theft is a valid one but valid with regard to application of a pricing structure, a management issue rather than a block on the operation of the business.

I would suggest that the key problems are the ones a number of other people raise, how do you actually establish trust with customers and how you act as a proxy for them in dealing with parties who have to be convinced of their identity. Coming up with a methodology that gets around this would certainly be the basis for a strong business model.
posted by biffa at 2:59 AM on February 25, 2005

IANAL but I would assume that the practical issue of how you act as a proxy is a small and easily resolvable one. Your model could be that of an accountant. I still have to sign my tax forms, but I pay my CPA to put them together because (a) it saves me a huge amount of time, and (b) she is a tax expert and I am therefore renting her expertise as well as her time.

By analogy, your clients might still have to sign letters to credit agencies, but you would rent them your time (by writing the letters for them) and your expertise (by knowing who and at which credit agencies to contact).

The trust issue is trickier. In the long term you will (presumably) build up a reputation for being honest and trustworthy, but in the short erm, perhaps you could leverage the reputations of others--eg, have each of your clients insured against loss by a reputable national insurance company, and/or have a board of directors (or advisors) consisting of well-respected law enforcement or business figures.
posted by yankeefog at 3:48 AM on February 25, 2005

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