Why is identity theft difficult to fix

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The journalist Tina Groll has become a victim of identity theft - the scammers only needed her name and date of birth. One in five people in Germany is said to have experienced data abuse. Those affected and experts plead for more legal protection and education at the Munich International Conference against Identity Theft.

From: Caroline von Eichhorn

Status: 03/11/2016

Tina Groll still has palpitations today when she opens the mailbox. Even if the identity theft was seven years ago, it still has consequences for the Berlin ZEIT journalist. It starts in 2009, one day before Christmas. An unknown invoice from the debt collection company "Creditreform" for over 200 euros ends up in your mailbox.

Tina Groll was the victim of data thieves in 2009 - she still notices the consequences today

It says you have not paid an invoice at WMF. But Tina Groll has never bought anything from WMF. She wonders, thinks, that is definitely a fraudulent scam. She writes by registered mail to Creditreform and WMF and makes it clear that she has never entered into a contract with them. Next year, 2010, things really get going. For a while, threatening letters, reminders and bills fluttered into her house almost every day. She finds out that there are arrest warrants against her and entries in the debtor register. Resentment has panic. At first she doesn't know how to defend herself.

Orders in false names - and hardly any protection

Identity theft can happen to anyone. The cabaret artist and author Serdar Somuncu also got it, as he tells in his column. In Somuncu and Groll's case, the scammers only used names and dates of birth. This allows you to register for email addresses, order on account and enter incorrect addresses or packing stations. The fraudsters have ordered goods worth tens of thousands of euros in Groll's name. Organized crime is mostly behind it.

"Identity forgery is getting easier and easier," says detective Peter Hessel, who deals with forgery of documents in the Frankfurt police headquarters, at the Munich International Conference against Identity Theft. Every day he learns something new about new creative counterfeiting methods. The problem is complex and diverse. As a private person there is hardly any protection against it. "One can only recommend to always be critical and to inform yourself." It affects not only individuals, but the whole economy, says Jan Wolter, managing director of the Alliance for Security in Business eV Identities are now stolen from companies and false websites are stolen created. “It is important to keep a close eye on what is being communicated and where about my company or me,” he says.

"The damage is the wrong data floating around."

In Tina Groll's case, however, that doesn't help. She cannot convince the debt collection agencies that she was defrauded. So she's looking for a lawyer who is knowledgeable in the field. Only after extensive research does she find a large, expensive law firm. It takes over a year for her to get rid of her identity theft with the help of her lawyer. The lawyer finds out that there are many other victims with the family name “Grud” to whom the same thing happened.

But even five years later, the identity theft is not entirely eliminated. Tina Groll finds out that a credit agency has still not deleted the incorrect data. It continues to be managed there with a low credit rating. And that is the real scandal for Tina Groll. "The damage is the wrong data in circulation." She has invested 800 working hours to eliminate this wrong data in credit agencies. The lawyer cost huge sums of money. Again and again she had to push for the data to be deleted.

Identity theft is not yet a criminal offense. “Today it is sometimes labeled as fraud, sometimes as cybercrime. Therefore, there are no useful statistics, ”says Groll. After all, identity victims have been able to report to Schufa themselves since September 1st: www.schufa.de/identitaetsschutz

Today Tina Groll gives lectures and provides information on the topic. However, she has never been able to find out who the scammer who stole her data is.