Identity theft goes beyond credit cards

By Peter Jessen

It is very discouraging to me to consider the number of identity thefts going on around us. Last month, someone skimmed my card at the local gas station and began buying music or apps at the Apple Store with my credit card. I’m grateful that I caught it rather quickly and contacted my card holder. Still, it took a couple hours of my time, a canceled card, a week to get my new card, etc.

Just the other day, friends had their bank account cleaned out by someone making online purchases. A few years ago, thieves broke into my wife’s car, stealing her purse, used her credit card and took money out of our checking account. I’m sure you and your family and neighbors can add to the list of stories.

I receive numerous daily telephone calls on my landline and cellphone trying to scam me into a lower credit card rate, deal with my student loans, etc. I wonder if they even have a legitimate product, but many just want my credit card information so they can use it for nefarious purposes, using and abusing my name.

I remember a time not so long ago when we had our Social Security numbers printed on our checks. No more. (Rachel just called from “Card Member Services” from a local number. When a human answered, asking me how I was doing today, I said in a jovial tone, “Well, I’d be doing even better if you would take my number off of your list.” The reply was, “You should go and die.” This just about sums it up, at least if the caller had added, “and leave me your estate.”)

All of this is called identity theft, as folks desire to use your name and enough other information to steal your Social Security check, buy gas, airline tickets, or music at the Apple store. You and I are violated. I confess that I have less than charitable thoughts about those who engage in these activities.

One alarming thing about identity theft is that often the culprit is a family member: a child (adult or otherwise), parent, sister, brother. People are willing to abuse the family name to get what they want, without regard to those whom they hurt. You can manage to break at least three of the Ten Commandments in one act. (Numbers 5, 8, 10).

I wonder how many of us commit identity theft with God. We claim to be members of God’s family, and throw God’s name around like a common word. How many times are we using it casually, with little commitment? We say we are Christians but act like we belong to another family. Often around election time, most politicians list their affiliation with a congregation, whether or not they spend time in church between election cycles.

Folks claim to be zealous members of Christ’s church, but if their attendance at work was like their worship attendance, they would be unemployed. When a survey was done several years ago, it was discovered that those claiming to be Christians had the same abortion rate as those who made no such claim. What other behaviors fail to distinguish those of us who claim allegiance to Jesus as the children of God?

Franklin resident the Rev. Peter Jessen of First Presbyterian Church wrote this for the Daily Journal. Send comments to