Last summer, Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Ben Bernanke discovered he’d been hit by identity theft. If the man who is in charge of the nation’s money supply is not immune to this scam, what hope do the rest of us have?
According to reports from a police report and court documents, a thief stole Bernanke’s wife’s handbag, taking with it a family chequebook, credit cards, and her identification.
Investigators eventually tied the case to a wider scheme of bank fraud, that has led to a federal indictment against 22 people. The main suspect in the Bernanke theft, is a man featured in a bank surveillance video trying to use one of the stolen checks. The authorities believe he was trying to extract a large sum from the Bernanke family account.
Bernanke and his wife, Anna, had to take steps against the identity fraud after the theft in 2008, according to Newsweek magazine, who first reported the story.
Bernanke, through a spokesman at the Federal Reserve, acknowledged the theft and said in a statement, provided on Thursday to CNN, “Our family was but one of 500 separate instances traced to one crime ring. I am grateful for the law enforcement officers who patiently and diligently work to solve and prevent these financial crimes.”
Mrs Bernanke had her purse stolen from the customer area of a Starbucks at Washington’s famous Eastern Market. Metropolitan Police Department records show she was carrying four credit cards, her driver’s license, the chequebook, and a small amount of cash in the handbag. The police officer who took the theft report quoted her as saying the purse was stolen from the back of her chair, and she did not see the theft take place.
According to a criminal complaint filed in October with District of Columbia Superior Court, the suspect, George L. Reid, 41, was involved in a scheme to pass fraudulent checks against multiple bank accounts, including Bernanke’s.
With the federal indictments against Reid and 21 others, the case has moved to U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The suspects are being charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
The scheme was also said to involve “pickpocket theft, mail theft, theft from businesses, and corrupt employees,” who helped the accused obtain bank account information, according to an affidavit filed in support of the charges and arrest warrants.
The statement from Bernanke noted that “identity theft is a serious crime that affects millions of Americans each year.”
To hear that someone in a high position such as Bernanke, can be the subject of identity fraud, is a scary reality. If it can happen to him, what’s to say that it isn’t going to happen to anyone of us?
Take whatever measures you can to protect yourself, and especially never leave your purse or wallet where someone can walk past and grab it when you’re not paying attention. Be aware of your surrounding and just know that theft can only take a few seconds and, before you know it, your cards, and possibly your identity, are gone.