How many would-be ID thieves bolt? We may never know

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News

It’s odd that there aren’t a lot of statistics around documenting whether the Red Flags Rule is working.

The Federal Trade Commission started enforcing the rule, which is aimed at preventing identify theft and protecting confidential customer data at dealerships, last year. For dealerships, it’s a paperwork burden at the very least.

Anecdotally, customers don’t seem to mind submitting to an extra measure of scrutiny. But the rule creates a risk that dealerships could offend some legitimate customers by acting as if they were suspicious.

An FTC spokesman told me a while back there are no publicly available statistics on enforcement or dealer compliance. But if I were the FTC, I would want to document how many dealership programs are in place and how many identity thieves are caught, and give an estimate of how many are deterred.

That last category -- identity thieves who simply walk away before attempting a bogus deal -- could be a big one. Presumably, many would-be thieves -- the smart ones -- simply walk away at the first whiff of suspicion. Granted, that will be tough to prove.

But do the results justify the time, trouble and expense dealers are taking to meet the requirements? It’s odd that the government doesn’t seem to be saying.

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