COLUMN: Identity theft and government


Dan Hahn

Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Dan Hahn, Columnist

When I was a victim of identity theft in 2018 my financial world was turned upside down. I was receiving letters in the mail from creditors and credit collectors for lines of credit I didn’t open.

In the weeks after the first letter arrived, I spent many hours undoing the damage that my doppelganger (or doppelgangers) did.

This involved such fun activities as filing a police report, freezing my credit files, and phoning and writing letters to everyone from the Illinois Attorney General to the three major credit bureaus.

Prior to this experience, I never considered the implications of the word “fraud.” In some contexts, it means an act of deception, but it can also mean a person who is not who he pretends to be.

To this day, it still bothers me that there was someone masquerading as me.  I don’t know how they got my information, but people were able to pretend to be me so that they could buy things and not pay for them.

Now, this brings us to the newly elected congressman of New York’s 3rd district, George Santos, who clearly committed fraud to become elected into congress. Yet, somehow, he sits in his elected position.

The Wikipedia page for “Salaries of members of the United States Congress” reveals that members of congress earn an annual salary of $174,000.

Maybe there are people out there that think this is not a lot of money, but I’m not one of them. If someone misrepresents who they are and gets a job in the corporate sector, they will get fired when the truth comes out.

How is it that the corporate sector can appear more ethical than our federal government?

Discussions about governmental incompetence can seem cliche in this era, and it’s clear that in our society officials break norms without consequence. They continue to earn a very good salary for successful deception, and in my mind they are stealing, committing fraud.

When a consumer is a victim of fraud there are mechanisms in place to protect them, although they are cumbersome to navigate. For example, I can put a freeze on my credit files so no new lines of credit can be open.

During the economic headwinds like the ones many working Americans are facing now, we need to stop allowing government officials to get away with fraud.

Political pundits on the left may criticize the right for not pressuring George Santos to resign, but the problem is not partisan.

There are no mechanisms in place to fire a duly elected congressperson for committing fraud for the office they were elected into.

I feel like this is a problem we can solve. The district that elected him needs to have another election. This is not unheard of.

Look at Georgia, if someone doesn’t get more than 50% of the vote, they ask everyone back to the polls and have a runoff.

New York’s 3rd district needs to follow suite. Further, there should be a law that governs this situation: if a candidate lies egregiously and gets elected, they must defend their seat in another election.

One thing I learned from my debacle with identity theft is that sometimes crooks do not get held accountable. In other words, people are dishonest and get away with it.

We should stop indirectly incentivizing liars and bad actors.

In my case, I was the victim of a petty crime, so justice and accountability were not that important. However, in the case of an elected congressperson who lied about his identity, this person does not deserve the $174,000 salary.

America should not be the land where we reward liars with taxpayer money, unless the taxpayers of New York’s 3rd district elect him knowing who he really is.

Dan Hahn is an English composition/rhetoric student. He can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.