Harmless Prank or Identity Theft? Applying With False Information

by Karen Oakes, Esq.

August 11, 2008

Another online site, The Consumerist, recently ran an article about Andy Fanellie being dunned by AFNI, a debt collector, for an old Verizon bill. Andy Fanelli is a Lhasa Apso dog whose owners deny that a Verizon account was ever opened by him or on his behalf (on the other hand, an American Express card was opened in the dog’s name).

Other online humorists have looked at the issue of animals receiving credit cards, such as www.creditbloggers.com, in a recent article found here. Harmless prank?

And then there are the children: A six year old in Illinois was sent a credit card. The mother sent in the application to “test the system.” Harmless Prank?

And then there are the adults who find out that others “tested the system” and abused their credit while still a minor as described by Wired: Parents Abuse Kids’ Good Credit. Harmless Prank?

This blog article began as a look at “how silly are these debt collectors…trying to collect from a DOG…” but really, after conducting research on this issue–credit cards/credit accounts being opened with “prank” information, isn’t “prank” information actually fraudulent information? Isn’t “testing” the system by inputting anyone else’s name, especially a child’s, actually providing fraudulent information to obtain credit? And I doubt seriously that the victims in the Wired report believe that the users of their good names/credit were “testing” the system or indulging in a harmless prank.

The consequences of the acts of their parents have ruined the opportunities for their children to buy a house/car/major purchase without stress.

The fact is that the credit industry has become so large that computerized databases were created to deal with huge numbers of credit applicants. Dependence on the application’s truthfulness is a requirement. The Verizon account, the credit card issued to a 6 year old, the 25 year old woman’s inability to purchase a house, — all the result of someone’s abuse of the system.

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I'm a consumer protection lawyer in Oregon, working with people in Klamath; Lake; Jackson; Josephine; Curry; and Deschutes County. I speak regularly on bankruptcy and consumer protection issues nationwide.

Last modified: May 7, 2014