FULLERTON, Calif. - It may sound incredible but after 30 years of helping prosecute identity theft and fraud cases, TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department Director Diane Terry can still be surprised. "I've certainly stopped saying I've seen everything," said Terry. "Something new always comes up." According to Terry, with so much time on their hands criminals often come out of prison more educated and stronger than when they went in. "They will spend time looking for the weakest link in the system, find it and exploit it," said Terry. "As soon as we solve one problem they have already taken another direction." Fighting fraud was not on Terry's mind when she first started in consumer relations at TransUnion in 1973. She would help consumers understand their credit report and teach how credit impacts consumers' lives. It wasn't until 10 years later Terry had her first experience with identity theft. A close friend's father had passed away and someone had lifted his name from the obituaries, assumed his identity and racked up a lot of credit including purchasing two cars. She says she felt firsthand the devastation and frustration of her friend's family in dealing with the fallout. "At the time I didn't know much about it, but looking at them I realized there are victims out there and after seeing a few other situations where the elderly were victimized by caregivers it broke my heart and just confirmed that I needed to get involved," said Terry. "I just knew that this is what I needed to do because I quickly realized that this crime just is not going away" Since then Terry has gone on to be an authority on identity theft, and in 1992 helped co-found the company's Fraud Victims Assistance Department, which is a centralized fraud department. According to Terry, the greatest challenge at the time was that everyone calling in during the first three years had already been a victim, so the department was not proactive. During the next few years Terry traveled throughout the country, talked to law enforcement and consumer groups to find out how to turn it around. "Now 70% of the calls are proactive where consumers call in if they have some type of at risk situation and we can do things to help protect them," said Terry. "The biggest misperception consumers/victims have is that this is a personal crime. The majority of the cases are really just crimes of convenience. Many of the victims also worry that if they report the crime it could turn violent. The reality is that most of these identity thieves want to stay as far away from the victim as possible." Terry says in the identity theft/financial fraud fight, education can't stop. Always on the go, Terry has been nicknamed the "energizer rabbit" by her staff. In addition to working with local law enforcement, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Attorney General's Office in major fraud investigations, Terry teaches a law enforcement post certified class on credit fraud and identity theft to officers throughout California and has recently become an instructor for the Department of Justice Economic Crimes class. She also serves on the executive board of the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators. While some in this profession might become jaded or cynical over the years, Terry remains optimistic and views her position as an opportunity to learn. She feels very lucky to have such a rewarding job, and her philosophy has always been that "you learn something from everyone whether you want to or not." "I'm just a person with a big heart and believe that if I see something wrong I need to do something about it," said Terry. "The only way I can be effective in this field is to be positive. I accepted that a long time ago. With all that I've seen, I can't just sit back and throw up my hands." With very few moments to herself this mother of three spends much of her free time with family and indulging in her tomato garden. -firstname.lastname@example.org
TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Dept. Director Still Positive After Years of Fraud Work
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