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How to Turn $150 into $12,000
Jeff Pasternack

I am suffering from the post-holiday reds: every time I open the mailbox there is a bill with "Past Due" in red letters. In the previous installment of the TechnoPeasant Review, I described the volumes of personal information about an "attorney allegedly from a big company" one could buy for $42. But I ask you…what good is having this information unless one puts it to use? So let's put together an equation:

(Excessive debt + pile of credit, personal and financial information on an attorney allegedly from a big company + Mailboxes Etc. + a wig, fake mustache, dark glasses, gloves and a hat) - (ethics + sense of wrongdoing) = a worry-free debt reduction program. Sounds like fun! So let's start planning.

My first stop would be to go online and copy the logo from the web site of the company where the attorney allegedly worked. Using Microsoft Word, a laser printer and card stock, I could print a stack of official-looking business cards and include a number from a disposable cell phone that I bought from 7-11. I could put on the wig and mustache, walk over to the local Mailboxes Etc. and, after fumbling around in my wallet looking for a non-existent driver's license, pretend to be embarrassed and offer the business card plus cash for three months in advance. Bingo, instant mail drop.

After reviewing the credit history, I could submit three new credit card applications, using the mail drop and disposable phone number along with the real social security and employment information I already purchased.

A few weeks later the cards arrive in the mail. I could pick them up while wearing my disguise and activate the cards, setting up a PIN number so I can use them at an ATM. I could go to the Greyhound bus station and buy a round trip ticket to Philadelphia from Washington, DC in my name and using cash. Once I climb off the bus at Filbert Street, I could go to the restroom and put on the wig, mustache, glasses, gloves and hat. I could start walking around the area and find an ATM. I insert a card, enter the PIN and withdraw cash. As the attorney who allegedly works for a big company is a wealthy sort of guy, he (read: I) can withdraw $5,000 per card. I go to other ATMs and repeat the process with the other cards, sometimes withdrawing $1,000 and other times more, until the cards have about $1000 left on each. No need to max them out.

On my way back to the bus, I could stop in a department store restroom and remove my disguise. I board the bus with $12,000 in cash and return to Washington. In the comfort of my own home, I burn the disguise and the disposable cell phone. Over the course of the next six months, I spend my paycheck on my normal, charted living expenses: mortgage, utilities, cable, gas, insurance, etc. All incidental spending is done with cash and I gradually increase my payments to my own credit card companies to wipe out my debt.

Two months after the withdrawals, the proprietor from Mailboxes Etc. calls to see if I am going to renew. The number is disconnected. The box is filled with junk mail and a few bills; they are trashed. The credit card companies are unable to reach the card holder at the phone number and their notices are sent back as having no known forwarding address. They try a few things to reach the card holder and, lo and behold, they call the employer, who dutifully transfers the call to the attorney. And then his nightmare begins.

No, he never lived at that address and never had that phone number. No, he hasn't been to Philadelphia. The security tapes at each ATM, if they weren't overwritten and if anyone bothers to look, would only show part of a face, nothing looking like him. The man at Mailboxes Etc. remembers the guy who bought the box because he paid for three months in advance with cash, but alas, he has no identity information and the vague description doesn't look like the attorney.

The attorney suffers immeasurably. His life is turned upside down. He calls for credit reports, signs up for a credit monitoring services, changes all sorts of account information rules and doubts every one of his actions. His days are populated by calls with various anti-fraud agents and the occasional police official. His nights are driven by worries of his good name being tarnished, of his identity being stolen. Forever more, his credit…his life, will be under suspicion. The police are unable to help. All the while he knows that, somewhere, out there, a person exists who pretended to be him. And he doesn't even know if that charade is ongoing, or not. Truth be told, he will never know.

In the meantime, I'm debt-free and living large. It was so easy. For a lousy $150, which bought the data, disguise, bus ticket and mail drop, I pulled in $12,000. The part of the brain that should prevent me from acting so wrongly is compromised by a sense of entitlement. He's a fat cat attorney who causes trouble for a living. He makes his living by filing suits on behalf of greedy corporate behemoths with crappy products and executives who don't like to read publicized reports about the truthful experience of a customer. Besides, the only ones who really lost money were the credit card companies, who deserve to be punished for any number of crimes and their own stupidity for failing to discern the ruse that I pulled. MoooHAHAHA!

And to think that it all could have started by spending $42 with an online data brokerage service that 99.99 percent of people don't know exist. The issue, of course, isn't that I could do all of these things. Its more about figuring out how to protect your personal information from people who want to sell it. I don't even know if we can prevent them from making the sale, but I do know a few things we can do to better protect ourselves from the people who purchase data for nefarious purposes and we'll cover that next month. Unless, of course, I'm either caught or retire to Tahiti.

Jeff Pasternack is the president of Dynamic Consulting Group and author of the TechnoPeasant Review. If you have questions about technology or comments about this column, please write to him at


Jeff Pasternack is the president of Dynamic Consulting Group, a franchise partner of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and author of the TechnoPeasant Review.
If you have questions or comments about this column, please write to him at