Wellington identity theft victim chased by debt collectors over passport fraud

Aaron Doody's stolen passport was used to steal money from his bank account and set-up new phone accounts.
Maarten Holl

Aaron Doody's stolen passport was used to steal money from his bank account and set-up new phone accounts.

When Aaron Doody's passport was stolen from his Wellington flat he cancelled it, called the police and his bank - and then believed that would be the end of it.

What he didn't expect was months of fighting debt collectors and credit rating agencies over the thousands being racked up in his name.

In January, Doody, 26, returned to his Newtown home to discover he had been burgled that day, the thieves making off with his passport, his flatmate's passport and two laptops.

Having reported it immediately, he says: "I kind of thought that would be it. We'd done everything we could."

But nine days later someone walked into a Waikato ANZ branch and withdrew $2000 cash from Doody's account.

The bank's fraud investigator later told him their security footage showed someone presenting a passport.

"I thought that would surely be it," he said.

But Doody's doppelganger had only just started.

Months later he received a phone call from Spark wanting to know if "Aaron Doody" of Lower Hutt really wanted two iPhones. One phone was already on its way but the company's staff member became suspicious after a second order.

In June, a debt collection agency called Doody demanding he fork out for $3645 in unpaid Vodafone bills - for an account he had never opened.

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It turned out the account was opened in his name using his old passport number, about two weeks after he reported it stolen.

Doody finally managed to get credit rating agencies to remove the black mark from his record, and Vodafone, Spark and ANZ have now all wiped the debt or reimbursed withdrawn cash.

Police are still investigating the theft but Doody is concerned criminals could still use his stolen passport.

"If there was some kind of database or system where retailers or banks carried out more due diligence and care they would have seen that passport wasn't valid."

A Spark spokesman confirmed one phone was ordered on Doody's account before they were informed the passport had been stolen. The matter was referred to Spark's fraud team, who would have been alerted when a second order was made, he said.

Vodafone and ANZ did not respond to requests for comment before publication last night.

A Department of Internal Affairs spokesman said information on stolen or lost passports was available to companies, and Interpol was also notified. Organisations should see that information when they ran credit checks.

Department figures show 11,136 New Zealand passports were reported stolen and 42,348 lost between 2010 and 2014. They are reputedly worth $10,000 on the black market.

Identity theft mitigation expert, David Lacey, managing director of iDCare, said Doody was luckier than most identity theft victims, who were often made to "feel like the criminal."

One Kiwi client living in London was summonsed to court after a man stopped by police in Auckland for a driving offence produced his lost driver's licence, Lacey said.

IDCare's hotline launched in New Zealand this March, funded by the Government, banks and telecommunications companies to help people fend off identity thieves.

They received 11,000 calls across Australasia since October last year and provided counselling for the stress of being defrauded to a third of clients - many who faced "lifelong" effects from the experience, Lacey said.

Advice covered people who had their wallets stolen, helping families of people killed in overseas disasters prevent victims' identities from being assumed, to people's images being used to promote prostitution websites.

What to do if your ID is stolen or lost

Call iDCare on 0800 201 415 for free, anonymous advice.
* Find out what was used to purchase the product or obtain the service – this tells you what type of personal information was compromised.
* Place a credit suppression with all three credit bureaus in New Zealand - it should be free and you should not have to buy any products from them.
* Alert your financial institutions, which should put additional monitoring in place.
* Be vigilant about what personal information you give others, check your transaction summaries carefully, get a copy of your credit report at least once annually, change your passwords regularly, and run anti-virus software on all devices.

 - Stuff

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