Brave New Car Dealer: fingerprints required to buy a car?

Imagine you’ve gone through a multiple week process to purchase an automobile.

You know the drill. Research every feature, pick your color, then, it’s negotiations for purchase price and for trade-in. Everything is done and agreed-apon, and excited, you are ready to hand over the check and collect your new car.

But wait!

You are handed a slip of paper and told to mark your right thumbprint in a box. The paper says clearly that it’s a request, for your protection, and to prevent your identity theft.

When you politely decline, the dealership refuses to sell you the car.

This is precisely what happened to me today when I tried to purchase a new X3 at the South Bay BMW dealer in Torrance, California.

Let me restate: In order to buy a car, with cash, you must authorize the release of your official DMV-recorded thumbprint to the dealership. This is not a law, this is a “dealership policy.” More on that in a minute.

Taken completely by surprise by all this, my husband and I asked many questions about this process. We were told that the data would remain on file at the dealership for seven years. That this policy is in place to protect us. That there are many bad, bad people in the world, who commit fraud, and that by recording everybody’s fingerprints, they would be deterred from committing fraud.

We were unsatisfied with the answers, and we explained that we were not comfortable with this arbitrary demand for biometric data and if this was required, we would not buy the car.

The resident fat cat was phoned, taking our call from his vacation spot in Hawaii. He replied that the collection and storage of biometric data is his policy.

He would not make any exceptions. The sales staff was clearly paralyzed here – they’d spent time making this sale happen too.

“He pays our salary, and that’s his rule,” they said.

“Well, customers pay his salary, and if he keeps treating them like criminals, I can’t imagine he’ll be able to afford many more trips to Hawaii,” I replied.

I might as well have been talking to the carpet.

According to the staff, this is the process at all dealerships owned by the Hitchcock Automotive Resources Company. They’ve had this program in place for over three months, and only other one person has refused to go through with the sale. The implication was clear; policy had singlehandedly stopped a bad guy, right in his tracks.

One criminal, over three months. Hundreds of people hassled. Clearly the deterrent is working. Right?

We walked out of the dealership, but not before learning that none of my personal data which was copied and recorded would be returned to me or destroyed.

It’s going to be kept on file for 7 years. Policy, you see. It goes in the same file where they keep the fingerprints.

So now I’ve lost copies of my driver’s license, credit report (which was also run without my knowledge), and marriage certificate (a copy of which was required in order to process the sale under my new name).

When I looked all this up online, I found… nothing. How is this possible? This is the Internet. Hundreds of people find my website each week from looking for photographs of owl vomit. But somehow this bizarre infraction of personal privacy has gone totally undocumented.

Looking a little bit deeper, I came across SB 504, a bill introduced to the California Senate by San Jose-based Senator Elaine Alquist, on February 18 2005. It was created as an act “to add Section 11713.15 to the Vehicle Code, relating to dealers.”

In one of its earliest incarnations, SB 504 stated:

No dealer issued a license pursuant to this article shall sell
a vehicle without first obtaining the right thumbprint of the
purchaser and a photocopy of his or her valid form of identification

The bill was ultimately chartered into law, but not before everything related to car dealers was edited out. I’m no legislator, and I won’t pretend to understand this process, but in fact the final chartered version seems not to have anything to do with car dealers at all.

I resent the implication that I am somehow a less worthy customer, a potential criminal due to my refusal to provide my fingerprints to a private, non-government entity. But what I resent even more is that a private business has been somehow “entreated” to enact a bill that failed to make it through the California legislature in the first place. The bill failed, so who is pressuring these dealers to enact it, regardless of the law?

I asked the dealership if I could keep a copy of the fingerprint form. Here’s the text:

“As you are aware, there is a national problem of identity theft. Southern California formed a multi-jursidictional law enforcement group, the Taskforce for Regional Autotheft Protection (“TRAP”).

Car dealers (especially luxury car dealers) are one of the prime targets for identity and auto theft. For your protection from identity fraud, we are now requesting all of our clients who purchase or lease a vehicle, to provide a thumb print, along with a copy of their current Driver’s License.

We have learned from law enforcement officials that the requirement of a thumb print is deterring criminals who engage in identity theft. Law enforcement officials also recommend that the dealer retrieve a DMV Driver License record to verify all information. This information will be kept confidential.

We appreciate your assistance in helping Southern California and South Bay with this very serious problem.

X________________ X_____________
Customer’s Signature Date

Print Name

By signin (sic) this form, I authorize (insert dealership name) to run a DMV Driver License record to verify all information.

Please place right thumb print in the square.

Witnessed by (signature) Print Name


According to Google, there’s no such thing as the “Taskforce for Regional Autotheft Protection“. At least, not that’s been indexed yet.

Digging around in some of the other California police sites only brings up a few flacky ten year old press releases:

But looking a little further, there’s finally some recent and useful information from the LAPD, which leads to the nonprofit group NICB which is, as far as I can tell, an insurance lobbying group. And did they mention they’re not-for-profit? Because they are. Totally not-for-profit. Their report on how auto theft fraud is orchestrated (PDF) is fascinating reading, especially since it doesn’t ever mention a single thing about this kind of fraud, the kind that can be prevented by recording a thumbprint.

The dealership claimed that the fingerprinting was for my protection. To make sure I’m really who I say I am, and haven’t just stolen someone’s social security number.

But I don’t get it. How does that work? No one’s checking to make sure the fingerprint I leave matches the one on file with the DMV. There’s no forensics expert on staff. And I don’t have data on this but I feel pretty certain that any car thief worth his salt probably already has more than one set of prints on file.

My point: If I had wanted to steal a car today, I could have simply popped my thumbprint down, and driven off with the car. I could do that twenty times at twenty different dealerships, if I were so inclined. This system protects nothing. It’s no deterrent.

And what about the legality of all this? Frankly, it doesn’t sound like such a great situation for the car dealerships. Who’s pushing this? Is it coming from the LAPD? Or is it from NICB, that friendly you know, “not for profit, nope-no-profit here” group? Is someone strong-arming the dealers? Is there some financial incentive, cheaper insurance rates maybe? Maybe the participating dealers are just being good homeland citizens.

Dollar Rent-A-Car tried fingerprinting their customers for a while. They gave up after realizing that it had no effect on fraud or theft. Simply, treating your customers like felons is bad for business.

That’s exactly why I will not purchase a car from South Bay BMW & Mini. There’s no legislation that I know of to regulate how this kind of data must be kept or stored.

And while they were nice enough to give me a copy of the thumbprint letter, nobody could provide me with a clear company privacy statement that outlines exactly how this data will be handled.

I already use my fingerprint to unlock my laptop computer. In five years I may be using it to unlock my front door, or access my medical records. Last month, my personal data was stolen during the big UCLA database break-in. So, if this thumbprint thing is really my last remaining way to prove my identity, well, pardon me for not trusting your sales force with it.

In this kind of situation, your only option is to vote with your feet (and your wallet). Calling around to a few other dealers, I felt like a criminal simply by ASKING whether they intended to fingerprint me as part of their sales process. At the very first dealer I called, the receptionist said “We don’t believe in treating our customers like criminals.”

So maybe there’s still hope.


138 Responses to “Brave New Car Dealer: fingerprints required to buy a car?”

  1. A Says:

    Ahhhhhh, Southbay BMW in Torrance CA, bastards! I know them well and have, as you experienced, had nuthin but trouble from them. I am sorry you had to deal with that Lorna, they don’t deserve your business if they can’t appreciate it (which of course means they don’t deserve anyone’s business, yours is but one of several war stories I’ve heard about crappy attitude and inept behavior on the part of their representatives and staff). And speaking of that, you were very right not to trust them with personal data. I had an ongoing issue over an insurance claim where, it seems, some documentation was “perhaps misplaced” and my insurance is still questioning a portion of the bill… a tidy sum that will most likely have to come out of my pocket at the end of the day. The dealership response? “If your insurance is playing games, that’s not our fault.” Translation? “We @#$%&! up, forgot we had your car, don’t care about your business and, oops, forgot to update your insurance according to procedure but ain’t gonna do a damn thing about it.” With me it’s money and, while it hurts, it doesn’t compromise anything but my bank account balance. With you, they were asking for very personal identification that you are right to be so, SO careful with. They would have “perhaps misplaced” it sooner or later. Several other friends have already jumped ship to alternate dealerships, my money and business will be going to a different BMW location later this year when I return my lease, and I am oh-so-glad you told Southbay to shove it and walked away— I’m also ecstatic that you’ve blogged about it! Buyer beware!

  2. lindsay herf Says:

    LOrna – YOu are an excellent writer…. you should be a journalist. And, with all the research you have done… you could be an attorney too! OMG! I will research a little more on the legality of it and ask my professors about it to see what they know. I really think you should go back to the car dealership and demand your personal info they took. Although they may have made copies, so demand everything back…. I cannot imagine how they have any right to keep that. Call my dad too! Love, your cousin-in-law Lindsay

  3. lorna Says:

    A, I am so sorry that your insurance paperwork is still unresolved. Other than the very last minute way the fingerprinting was presented, I don’t have so many complaints about the staff there. I think they were fair and genuinely wanted to sell us the car. When we balked at the fingerprinting policy, the sales guy turned a bit pale and said “this is so far above me…” creepy.

    Lindsay, hi!!! Thanks so much for your comments. I got quite an education on the CA legislative process. The marriage license contains copies of other people’s addresses and information, not just ours. I would be satisfied if they had shredded the photocopy but it turns out those things have hard drives with copies of all the copied data too, yikes.

  4. A Says:

    That’s good to hear that the staff was good to you even though the policies there are odd, to say the least. Maybe they have fixed a few things since a friend of mine got a car there a couple years back, he certainly had some things to say about how his transaction was handled. I have heard a few comments here and there about the over-all “feel” of that dealership (maybe your word “creepy” kind of fits the bill, who knows). I’d use the word “indifferent” but that is pretty specific to my little debacle, about which I am admittedly still irritated :)

    Sorry that you had to go through such a stupid ordeal but am certainly glad that you researched the heck out of it for the benefit of others. I had no idea that there was a weird policy lurking about out there regarding car dealerships and fingerprinting. It’s, well, yeah, creepy.

  5. lorna Says:

    The owner of that dealership is named Fritz Hitchcock. Maybe you could write a letter about your bad experience? You can find all the contact info by searching the web for “Hitchcock Automotive Resources.”

    Any owner who cares about his business would want to know about this. But, as you said, “indifferent” is a good descriptive word for the attitudes I’ve come across – it seems to apply to most of the car dealerships I’ve visited recently.

  6. The Otterman Empire Says:

    They asked for a thumb, she gave them the finger. How a car dealer in CA (south bay BMW) believe that treating people like thieves is good for business.

  7. Rog Says:

    Excellent post, but I believe more disturbing than the dealer’s ineptitude and information gathering is the fact that you were only the second out of hundreds of buyers to balk at this BS request. It seems people are much too complacent when it comes to privacy infringements and that’s the broader picture that needs to be worked on.

  8. Citygent Says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your experience, but it strikes a chord –

    Here in the UK, the government is pushing through a National ID Card scheme. On the card will be biometric date, including fingerprints and an eye scan. The data will, we’re told, be, private and secure and only available to the Government, banks and other businesses. So much for private and secure….
    The cards are voluntary and people will have the right not to carry one. However, if you don’t get one, you won’t be given a passport, restricting freedom of movement (a breach of the European Human Rights Act)

    In schools, children are being fingerprinted without parental consent (often children are told not to tell their parents), and the data is passed on to the police.

    The idea that biometric data is required in order to buy basic consumer items is really scary.

    If it’s OK with you, I’ll link your entry to my blog.

    Btw – the X3 is a nice ride ;o) Good choice.

  9. Ianiv Schweber Says:

    I’ve started a website for people to tell stories like yours. I’d love it if you could repost this story there or, if you don’t have the time, allow me to repost it myself, attributed to you.
    The site is called Don’t ID Us:

  10. bored in the barrel » Blog Archive » Retared policy to buy a car Says:

    […] We’ll need your thumbprint, you nasty criminal. Ok, seriously? What the fuck? I really actually don’t get why you’d need to give a fingerprint to buy a vehicle. I mean, apparently the strip club here makes you print the credit card receipt, but that actually is for their protection, since if you try to deny you made the charge to not have to pay for the ass being jiggled in your face, they have something to prove your horny ass was, in fact, there all a-droolin’. […]


    […] This is what six years of Republican, Neo/Theocon, Patriot Act BULL SHIT! has produced: a nation where someone is refused the purchase of a new car unless they relinquish biometric data — in this case, a thumbprint — based on no law but simply a company policy of a automotive dealership. What will it take for the sheep to wake up? Do they really have to line us up for tattoos before we balk? […]

  12. hitch fritzcock Says:

    running a “hard hit” credit inquiry without your concent/knowledge is ILLEGAL. file an complaint with the FTC online.

  13. Rick Says:
    “What comes next? Will citizens be required to submit a fingerprint to buy a car?

    The answer: Yes

  14. Corey Says:

    Um…what exactly do you think they’re gonna do with your fingerprints? What are you hiding? Are you afraid the LAPD is going to place you at some crime scene? I don’t understand why the dealership wanted it in the first place, but I really don’t understand why you wouldn’t give it to them. They already have your SSN, which is a lot more valuable than your boring fingerprint. Did you have any problems giving them that info? I’m guessing they also have your home address, your work address, phone numbers, next of kin, etc. And yet for some reason the fingerprinting turned you off to the entire thing. I don’t understand you. Anyway, I had a great experience last month at Long Beach BMW, right off the 405, so I can recommend them. No outlandish fingerprinting! Good luck!

  15. A Says:

    Why do you have to be “hiding something” just because you choose to limit the number of personal identifiers floating around out there about you these days? Yes, a dealership already has your SSN, your addresses and phone numbers (dating back 5-10 years many times), your name, your credit history, next of kin, etc., all of which collectively represents data that has been compromised in one way or another in this day and age. Since a dealership cannot actually use your fingerprint data to prevent anything, why on earth should they have it? No need to carelessly toss out one more piece of personal information that someone could get a hold of and use to violate your personal identity. Since fingerprints have not yet been easily hacked, stolen, reproduced or sold over the internet (although I’m sure that day will come), one might draw the resonable conclusion that it’s better to make it harder for someone to access that kind of data, rather than easier. If you don’t protect your biometric data, no one else is going to, and this odd request on part of a car dealership is needlessly asking a customer to give over unique identifying information to an entity that has no use for it and no way to protect it.

  16. Andy Says:

    I agree with Corey. So they wanted your fingerprint. So what? I’m assuming the good folks at that dealership are doing the best they can and are not interested in framing you as part of some vast terrorist or criminal conspiracy. You already turned over information much more compromising than you fingerprint. And I’m sure, no, positive that they didn’t run a credit check on you without your consent. A dealership that large and successful has too much experience to do something like that. You signed something somewhere along the line giving them consent. It may be in fine print, but it’s there, mark my words.
    P.S. I had to turn over my email address just to post this comment.

  17. lorna Says:

    Andy, just by hitting this page there’s a whole footprint of data left behind. In addition to your email address which is quite easily fakable, your IP address is recorded. Invasion of privacy? Maybe, but that’s how the internet works. Without leaving behind that data, you can’t view the site. My main point is not fear of what these places will do with the data nearly as much as I see absolutely no reason for them to collect it in the first place. It isn’t necessary to complete the sale. I wholeheartedly disagree with the idea that this is protecting me in any way.

    Thanks for the differing viewpoints, it is a very interesting discussion. I’ll post a longer comment tonight.

  18. Woody Says:

    My car has 336,000 miles on it. I’ll make it go over 700,000 before I give a thumbprint to buy a new one.

  19. A Says:

    I think it’s interesting that the words “conspiracy” and “terrorist” pop up all the time these days in relation to someone questioning something that they feel strongly about that goes a bit outside of what an establishent, be it government, automotive or otherwise, demands. There wasn’t anything conspiratorial or nefarious cited in regard to this blog that I caught. Protect your information or not, for whatever your personal reasons may be. It needn’t be fear that motivates you, or insideous designs, the point is that you have a right to protect such information should you wish to do so unless someone can give you a damn good reason for needing it. The legislature clearly fails to see what reason a dealership could have since dealerships were written OUT of the legislation regarding the issue, therefore, what logical reason is there for providing the data if you don’t wish to do so? For now mine will have to collected the good old fashioned way, by the FBI off of my coffee cup, thanks.

  20. Barry Ritholtz Says:

    I sure as hell wouldn’t want the dealer to maintain my private data — especially if you have no relationship with them — Send a nastygram to them — preferably from a lawyer, demanding they destroy all copies of your data — they have no right to it.

    If and when they fail to comply, decide if you are better served by suing them, or taking it to the media . . .

  21. Mike Says:

    Other businesses in Torrance have tried to collect finger prints, and not even with the excuse of an auto purchase. There was a program with the Torrance Police Department to combat check fraud that had them collecting fingerprints from anyone paying by check.

    This was at Walser’s art store. Since I was buying artists reference books with some nude pictures in them, it just seemed like a bad idea to have my fingerprint and sales slip on file at the police station.

  22. Mike Says:

    BTW, your anti-bot feature doesn’t like any of the math answers if you try to submit from Firefox 1.5 (PC version).

  23. Ali Says:

    This is why you need to live in San Francisco. This kind of crap doesn’t happen up here!

  24. flyingpenguin » Blog Archives » Hitchcock Automotive and Your Fingerprints Says:

    […] Lornamatic has posted a fabulously written story of a terrible customer experience at a car dealer run by Hitchcock Automotive. In a nutshell the dealer demanded a thumbprint to seal the sale of a car but did not provide any assurance to the customer about the safety or use of the thumbprint, and so the customer did the right thing and walked away. […]

  25. Says:

    Brave New Car Dealer: fingerprints required to buy a car?

    Imagine you’ve gone through a multiple week process to purchase an automobile. You are handed a slip of paper and told to mark your right thumbprint in a box. The paper says clearly that it’s a request, for your protection, and to prevent your iden…

  26. John Says:

    Reading a Reader’s Digest, around 20 years ago: In Canada, a police officer used swapped fingerprints in a microfiche database to be able to get a conviction. The young man served 22 years in prison before being set free. Long winded article but due to the laws in place a high court can’t overturn a lower courts ruling and it took publicity by the mother to front the Justice Minister in a public place before he could be released. For 8 years it had proven that his fingerprints were falsified. I’ve always remembered this. My point being, Don’t give anything out willingly, question everything.

  27. Chris B. Says:

    You should send a link to this blog entry to the 3 major network news “tips” lines. You might be able to get your story published on national news, since it’s an interesting story that others may be interested in hearing.

    From what I understand, most of the networks now have staff members who sift through the news tips looking for these kinds of stories. NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox News, CNN, etc.

    Would be interesting to see how the dealership responds when 50 million people hear about their crazy policy.

  28. Allan Says:

    I agree with Corey and Andy, but not because I don’t agree with you too. You already gave out tons of information you really didn’t need to if you were paying cash. I am about to buy a car at a dealership in a couple of days and I wonder if I tell them they cannot have any personal information, but I will happily give them cash. Will they walk? I don’tknow of any laws that require you to give up personal data in a cash transaction. I think the EFF guys even won a case against the airlines for that. We will see (I see no reason not to try it at the second to lowest bidder).

  29. lorna Says:

    Thanks guys – these comments are amazing!

    Regarding the cash question, they want your prints no matter how you pay. Financing a car at BMW is sucking pretty hard right now (their incentives are all for leases). I think they offered around 8% for a loan. The fingerprint collecting policy applies regardless of whether you pay cash in dollar bills, cashier’s check, financing or lease. We asked if it would be the same situation with a wire transfer; it would. In a moment of irritation I offered to bring them a Zero Halliburton case.

    For the folks who ask what I’m so afraid of, or what I’m trying to hide from the government, all I can really say is, the government has this data already. Every document you notarize, or every DMV renewal you go through, it uses a thumbprint. Think what you will about that, it’s How Things Are. Government versus car dealer, well, I don’t believe in giving my dollars to such a ridiculous policy. If you’re going to give me a song and dance about politely requesting my information to protect me, well – please be prepared to back that up with some substance. And in this case, where it quite clearly wasn’t a request, save the pleasantry and call it what it is: an arbitrary and invasive demand for data.

    I’d like to see the credit and background check for the staff who has access to my fingerprints. But, now that would violate the employees’ rights for being invasive.

    A couple other things: Regarding the question of the credit report: it’s entirely possible that I did sign permission for them to run it – as a few people have already said it’s a very standard form. It just wasn’t clear that it was happening. I’ve heard of some very seedy dealers which run credit without consumer’s knowledge to determine whether they can afford the car. I don’t think that’s what happened here, it just surprised me.

    From many of the comments I’ve read here and at The Consumerist, people are extremely concerned with social security numbers. But would you write your social security number everywhere? Would you hand over your most secure password to a car dealer, if they decided it was required to buy a car?

    How about this: would you write down your credit card number on everything you touched? Probably not – everyone knows that’s not secure.

    But that’s exactly what happens with fingerprints. The more I think about it, the more I realize how utterly foolish a solution this is. Fingerprints are on everything I touch. So now they have a filecabinet full of fingerprinted papers. Their entire security system is based on data that’s freely available on every coffee cup I leave behind. How does that protect me *or* the dealer? Any stolen cars would be chopshopped and resold for profit long before anyone got the scanner hooked up. And if there are serial car thieves, well, unless you have an instant alert system, frankly, it’s just a big waste of time and paper.

    But all this will change as the technology becomes more invasive. It’s excellent training, though, you know, for consumers of the future.

  30. Nathan H. Says:

    My Chevy dealer sold me a 40,000 suburban without even a CA drivers license presented and I paid by check….

  31. Mary Lu Says:


    A couple years ago (pre 9-11,) the husband and I went to buy a 2 year old GMC Jimmy 4×4 from West Covina Toyota. Total price for this exceptionally nice ride was about $12,000. (This happened before SUV became the alternate transportation for every soccer mom on the planet.) At no time while we were doing the inspection and looking over the truck did my husband and I ever say we were financing the truck. If fact we deliberately told the salesman not to worry about how we were going to pay for the truck, we would deal with that once we decided we were going to buy it, or not. After repeating this several times you’d think the little sales dweeb would have gotten the clue– but it soon became obvious he had not.

    So we agree to a price we are willing to pay, and just as I reach into my purse to write a check for the truck, they start asking for tons of personal information, assuming we were financing the deal. I quietly put my checkbook back into my purse and lean back in the chair. I look at the documents and push the paperwork back at the finance and sales people– “Ah no, we do not need to fill out this information as we are paying for it in full with cash or check– tell me what form of payment you will accept.” And all of a sudden they start protesting I have to fill out all this information. “No I do not.” I tell them and remind them I’m paying cash. All this personal information is not necessary and I refuse to give information to them they do not need. At this point they start pleading to my husband, who looks them squarely in the eye and says, “This is her deal, we are paying cash for the truck, and whatever she says goes.” Gets up and heads to the Coke machine for a laugh. Now the ball is squarely in my court and they know I’m not about to move… “Go get the General Manager and the Sales Manager now if you want this deal done.” and roll back in my chair. After about 15 minutes of watching them run around, I calmly get up and walk into the Sales Managers office look at all the sales guys and say.. “GO! I need to talk to David.” They scatter like fly’s. I look David, the sales manager, right in the eye and calmly say… “Look David– you know who we are, we’ve bought three cars from this dealership over the past 10 years. I am not financing this truck with you or the bank. I’m paying cash with my checkbook– You know the checking account that you folks have been more than happy to take checks from all the damn time when we service the Supra. There is plenty o’cash in the account to cover this check and you damn well know it too. I personally refuse to go through a complete credit check to write you a g*d damn check. Now either 1. You take this check. 2. We take a drive up to the bank and we get you cash now. Or 3. you’ve just lost the sale. Your choice. Do you want the sale or not?” At that point my husband is hanging inside the door post telling the GM I’m not joking. In less than 5 minutes they tell the office to write it up. In less than 45 minutes I’m home with my new truck on the driveway. The only thing I had to give them was a photocopy of my Driver’s License and insurance card.

    A couple days later I go back to the dealership and David comes out to ask if I’m happy with the truck. All the sales dweebs have scattered again. Looks like I’ve gotten a reputation as being a “bitch” somehow. (smile) I tell him I’m happy with the truck and appreciate him doing the right thing.

    Then he asks the questions I know he was longing to ask…. 1. “ML have you always been this hard nosed in business?” “Yep. It is business.” I remind him. He nods and then asks 2. “If we had refused to sell you the truck without the forms, what would you have done?” “Walked, of course. Someone would have had another truck I could buy my way.” I reply. He nods with a big smile, and goes on to tell me I’m the first person to ever come into that dealership and refuse all their paperwork and tell them all my personal information is none of their business. It amazed the GM and the owner that I would refuse to “share” my private information.

    It proves just how brainwashed people are to share such personal information places are not entitled to have, especially when you’re paying cash. I personally would send a letter to the owner of the dealership and tell him what an ass they are to require a fingerprint and send a letter to BMW to tell them just howviolated and insulted you were made to feel by the dealership. And finally I’d call the Attorney General’s Office here in CA and see if Jerry Brown’s folks have an opinion on their thumbprint deal.

    Things just might change.

    Oh yeah… I’m going to link to your story. Keep us posted!

  32. Hello Mary Lu - The Original Blog du Jour of Mary Wehmeier » Check it Out: Giving Hitchcock Automotive the Finger Says:

    […] Read about Lorna’s adventures here. It appears Lorna’s story is getting traction. […]

  33. faz Says:

    Fingerprints ARE a different kind of “personal data” :

    1- it’s definitively attached to you body. You cannot change it in any way (like changing country or gender)

    2- you let it everywhere without even knowing it (this is not the case of a also unique retinal scan, for example)

    3- once someone (a car dealer ?) compromise your fingerprints, and let someone use it for scam or fraud purpose, you won’t be able to cancel it.

    So it sound very wise not to let amateurish car dealer keep your fingerprint for 5 years.

    Note that in France, where there is a special law about all personal data, the CNIL council very rarely authorize fingerprint biometric systems. They rather prefer big companies or airport to use retinal scan or the hand silhouette. They got some very good reason for that, and no, they are not that liberal at all.


  34. lorna Says:

    Nathan, that rocks.

    Mary Lu, you are most definitely my kind of “bitch.” That’s a great story. I do think I owe letters to both BMW USA and South Bay BMW. I’m so very glad to be able to point to stories like yours and say look, people don’t like this. This is not only my opinon.

    And faz, 3 excellent points. You can’t change your thumbprint, so if a digital copy gets stolen or compromised, you are in real trouble.

  35. Winston Says:

    It sounds like your refusal to submit a fingerprint is an admission of guilt. I think you should confess to your crime now. Without a confession, people will just assume the worst…

  36. lorna Says:

    Winston, it’s so much more interesting hearing people’s conspiracy theories.

    Though I am guilty of instant, extreme suspicion of any company who collects more data than they need. *Especially* when they say it’s for my protection.

    Also, I should not have eaten the entire bar of chocolate yesterday. But that will stay just between us, right?

  37. Mikey Says:

    There is a federal law requiring banks and businesses to report cash transactions >$10,000.00 . . . this might require a SSN; the law was designed to catch drug dealers and organized crime folks, who are required to keep most of their money in cash to avoid being busted for tax evasion (remember, it’s what they got Al Capone for). But, IIRC, it shouldn’t require a fingerprint.

  38. karl Says:

    whos to say you could not fake a thumbprint. Im sure i could come up w/ a way to attach a clear coating over my thumb print and have it leave marks like a thumb print when put on paper given funding.

  39. Mark Says:

    Latest issue of National Geographic…story on a woman born without fingerprints…guess she would have to take the bus for the rest of her life..

  40. Midknightryder Says:

    Very interesting story. I would also have walked out. Several years ago I ws going to make a small purchase at a Radio Shack using a Check card. The sales person asked for my phone number. I replied that they did not need it to complete the transaction. He said he had to put it in the computer to get it to go to the next screen and complete the sale. I told him to get the manager and we would see if he really need my phone number. The manager said that it was company policy for all card sale to take the phone number. I requested that the sales person give me back my card and that I would make my purchase elsewhere. The sales person just looked at me as if I had lost my mind. I had to reach over the counter and take my card away from the sales person.
    I sent an email to Radio Shack about the company policy. They replied that it was not their policy and that they would like to talk to me personally, so if I would send them my phone number they would give me a call. I replied that what made them think I would email them my phone number when I would not give it to the store clerk!
    I never give out any personal information unless there is a compelling reason to do so.

  41. nyn55 Says:

    Since the tax reform act of ’84 and the anti-drug abuse act of ’88 cash transactions for “consumer durables” are required to be reported to the IRS using: Form #8300 which does require SSN’s and other std. taxpayer identifiers,
    ….but no thumbprint.
    (Consumer durables include property, cars, boats etc.)

    If you are getting a loan – the dealership will need all those pieces of personal data mentioned earlier, but once the transaction is complete and the loan in place I cannot see any reason for them to maintain (for 5 or 7 years) any personal identifiers other than name, address, and a local account of inventory and maintenance/upkeep.

    Having not completed a transaction with them – I think you have the legal right to demand that all of your personal data be returned to you. I know you have the moral right to it and would like to encourage you to continue to publicize this in any way possible.

    So many people don’t realize that biometrics are very likely to be part of their next form of password for their entworks, bank accounts, etc. It seems a shame to have tomorrow’s security data stored in-securely by amateurs before we are even using it.

  42. No Thumbprint = No BMW | The Garage Says:

    […] When you’ve worked in the car industry for a long time, you often get the feeling that you’ve seen it all. Every now and then though, you stumble across something new that defines description. Imagine going to buy a new car and the dealer wants all the usual info from you and then asks for you to leave a thumb print! That’s exactly what happened to Lorna from Lornamatic. She refused. They refused to sell her the car! […]

  43. John Says:

    I watched my wife tear up a bank certified check in front of the finance guy’s eyes because he wanted additional forms/paperwork done “just in case he could match the financing we acquired elsewhere”. We told him we have the check for the amount agreed upon, take it or leave it. He said, I’m afraid you have to let us attempt to match the payment. My wife said “it’s a shame I already printed your dealerships name on this certified check, now I have to go back to the bank and get another one with the name from the dealership down the street”. Then she ripped it into pieces, stuck it in her pocket, and said “lets go honey”. I looked at the finance guy and laughed. He wanted me to wait for the SA and I said what the hell for?

  44. Joe Thomas Says:

    Note to Mary Lu and Lorna: if you do pay $10,000 or more in cash (US currency, money order) for a car at an auto dealer they are required take your name, address, SSN, and ID in order to fill out IRS form 8300. This reporting was enacted to prevent drug money from being laundered. Personal checks, however, are not treated as cash (I guess becuase they trail back to your bank account).


    Here’s an article from “DealersEdge” about getting a 8300 Audit:

    Of course, all this has NOTHING to do with thumbprints.

  45. Davi Ottenheimer Says:

    @ Mike

    Thanks for mentioning the math bug for firefox. I lost my comment. :)

    @ Andy

    The point is not how “good” the dealer is in a generic sense, it’s how safe your identity information is in their care. It’s a measurable risk and since it seems they are not impacted if they do a poor job with it you would be wise to follow Lorna’s example and ask questions.

    @ lorna

    The Taskforce for Regional Autotheft Protection (TRAP) is probably some local name or even a typo for the Regional Auto Theft Task Force (RATTF). I wrote a bit about it on my blog but, in a nutshell, they do exist and have been fighting identity-related grand theft at dealers in the Bay Area. Search for the following phrase:

    Targeting “Nomadic Criminals”

    Pretty ironic how the dealers are reacting to identity theft crime by engaging in poor information security practices that can easily lead to worse identity theft issues.

  46. Joe Thomas Says:

    Lorna and Mary Lu: If you pay $10,000 or more for a car with cash (actual bills, money order, etc.) the auto dealer is required to take your name, address, and SSN to fill out IRS form 8300. This requirement was enacted to prevent drug money laundering. If you pay by personal check, however, the form is not required. (Since the check trails back to your bank account, I guess).

    See a recent article on Form 8300 audits in DealersEdge:

    Of course, this has NOTHING to do with thumbprints.

  47. Davi Ottenheimer Says:

    @ Mary Lu

    Note the Patriot Act. Your cash transaction is above the $10K limit.

    Search for:

    “Reports relating to coins and currency received in nonfinancial trade or business”

    Also note the part where it says “the name and address, and such other identification information as the Secretary may require, of the person from whom the coins or currency was received”

  48. Geeta Says:

    I’m not sure of the law in California, but I think all that information collected – copies of your driver’s license, credit report, marriage certificate – should be considered YOUR property that they must return to you upon your request, if they don’t have your consent to have it. There may be a state Privacy Commissioner or similar office that can help you get it back … or at least a contact from them may help compel the dealership not to do things like this anymore?

  49. J.S.Lucas Says:

    I haven’t seen anything here about possible criminal reasons someone at the dealership might want all this information.
    After all the overall income level 0f BMW buyers is surely higher than average. If someone were to verify and sell a bloc of information it could result in very large sums going missing in a very short time. The dealership of course would say it was stolen. So far in all these cases of stolen information there seem to be few if any legal or civil penalties for the entities that “carelessly” expose all this information.

  50. David Kaspar Says:

    Just to be clear, I am completely with you on not giving out any more personal data than is necessary; especially to a private company with no authority.

    But it could protect you as in if somebody purchased the car with your financial details (identity theft) they would not be able to fake the thumb print.

    But of course companies don’t anything for your benefit. It could also be protection for them as they have very strong proof who purchased the car and can report it as crime should the finance fail after the car has been drive away.

    In any case, good on you for standing up for your own privacy and protection!

  51. Anon E. Mouse Says:

    Come now lorna, we all know full well you’re guilty of the most heinous of crimes..

    Daring to think for yourself (DUN DUN DUNN…)

    I’m sure they have your cell in Gitmo all ready.

  52. dog of the south Says:

    what if you didnt have thumbs? my grandfather had no fingers, blown off during the war, but he still drove. but you want to screw with people like this? squeeze a layer of superglue on your thumbs, dont touch anything of course until they dry, but then go and give your print, which will be bascially a blob of nothing.

  53. aLynn Says:

    I had a similar experience to Mary Lu’s in the 90’s. I’m female, was paying cash in hand, and had the deal negotiaged and refused to fill out the financing paperwork. They started out by calling me hardnosed, and ended by calling me a “ball-breaker” because I wouldn’t do what he told me to. I walked. Similar experience at another dealership. I walked. This one called me at home 4 hours later, told me if I would come back, the vehicle would be preped and waiting and guranteed I would be out of there in less than 30 min. I was. I’m convinced they’re selling the data to places like Choice Point who are reselling it to the Feds these days.

  54. John E. Doe Says:

    Time to market a ‘fake thumb print’ kit!

    In this kit, you get to choose from several templates:
    (1) Adult Male
    (2) Adult Female
    (3) Teenaged Male
    (4) Teenaged Female
    (5) Child Male
    (6) Child Female
    (7) Cat
    (8) Dog
    (9) Ape
    (10) Chimp

    There’s money to be made!!!
    To order: call 555-555-1212 for details!

  55. A Says:

    I’ve been following this from day one and, Lorna, kudos for getting this issue to take wing. I just hope this hits the national media, it seems to have the chops for it and the topics of personal rights, biometric data and an individuals personal privacy are all ripe in the current political climate.

    Btw, Mary Lu, you’re story rocks!

  56. A Says:

    Lol, that would be “your story”, forgive the spelling, not enough coffee yet today :)

  57. lorna Says:

    A, don’t forget to wear your gloves when you hold that coffeecup. ;)

    Or maybe you should get a fingerprint kit! I’d love to insert little hidden messages in my fingerprints, like the Wes Wilson concert posters of the 1960s. There’s an act of civil disobedience. I spent quite a while stuck in traffic yesterday, dreaming up ways to fake or copy thumbprints, and I think I’m going to have to play mad scientist for a while.

    Thanks for the comments about the Patriot Act, too, I did not know that particular provision. Hope there is no provision to lock me up for thinking about how to fake thumbprints.

    Your stories are all fantastic. Car dealers seem to just be naturally good at “You’re The Only One Who Didn’t Go Along With It, Why Not Just Sign Now And You’ll Feel So Much Better? It Only Hurts For A Second.” Heaven forbid you should be a woman who plays by the rules, you truly will be called ALL sorts of unflattering names. And thanks for the “nomadic criminals” info. Crazy.

    Apropos to none of the rest of this, there’s a lot of interesting research with limb regeneration in newts. I guess if your identity got stolen and you needed a new thumbprint, you could always just, y’know, lop off the old one and grow a new one. There’s a business. Imagine the late night infomercials.

    I *really* don’t like thinking of all the future paths for biometric data. And we can’t possibly predict how this will work in the future, either. But I feel so much better knowing so many people share in my concern with the direction it’s taking.

  58. Davi Ottenheimer Says:

    @ David Kaspar

    “But it could protect you as in if somebody purchased the car with your financial details (identity theft) they would not be able to fake the thumb print.”

    In theory, perhaps, but in practice there are many problems. Here are a few:

    1) there is a scarcity of objective scientific evidence supporting biometrics as unspoofable, while on the other hand evidence has started to percolate out demonstrating fake prints are trivial (due to failures in the process of recording and identification). here’s a fun do-it-yourself example, just for reference:

    2) as i mentioned above the introduction of biometric data does not change the fact that identity information is stolen, which is the bigger problem to deal with. an insecurely managed fingerprint could be stolen as well, thus actually increasing the risk of false negatives (per #1) and therefore seriously raise the stakes of identity theft and cost of fixing the real problem.

    3) assuming #1 is solved, and #2 is fixed as well, you still have the problem of connecting the dots (pun not intended). in other words, should every car dealer be connected to the state or federal real-time registry of convicted offenders? should they be connected to each other, or even other merchants in other industries? asked another way, how would you use a fingerprint to actually fingerprint the right person at the right time, and at what cost (money and privacy)?

    i could go on, but i think the bottom line is to remember that while dealer’s are worried about risk of grand theft (for obvious reasons) they apparently are not worried at all about losing identity information of their customers. this inherent contradiction not only should call their values and practices into question, but should also expose the very real (counterproductive) dangers of trying to escalate into “more secure” measures without properly factoring externalities and big picture risks.

  59. crispm Says:

    This is another example of security theatre (a term coined by Bruce Schneier, see e.g.,

    An interesting side-effect is that these things become end-runs on US constitutional protections, which apply only to the government. If a private party acquires biometric information, it can later sell or give it to the government.

    Here’s some creative recourse: write to BMW in Germany, with copy to their US office. The European Union has stringent rules governing collection and disposition of personal information (biometric and otherwise), and I am sure that this dealership’s practice would never be allowed in BMW’s home country.

  60. Simpleton Says:

    I don’t know if this has been mentioned before (So many comments – lots of people upset over this – thanks for bringing it to our attention!!!!!) but seems to me that Lorna does not have a contractual relationship with the dealer and therefore the dealer should not have any of her personal information. Seems like a tort to me – but would it be a tort of conversion or a tort relating to invasion of personal privacy? I’m tending to privacy, but conversion could possibly work. As I recall, (if I’m not mistaken!), California has strong privacy laws. I suggest filing a lawsuit in small claims court and having it transferred to Judge Judy so she can really ream the dealer out in front of 10 million people.

  61. Simpleton Says:

    Oh, the lawsuit would be for return of all originals and all copies of all documents relating to Lorna.

  62. Jim None Says:

    Well Americans will no longer buy German made BMW’s its Ford or GM from now on!!! BUY AMERICAN

  63. Elaine Says:

    Lorna…this is such a great story. I would love to do a television version of it. Please call our assignment desk at 818-863-7600. We would like to air it tonight at 11 if you are willing to talk to us.

  64. the dave Says:

    To all those that say just give the fingerprint – if youre not a crimi you have nothing to hide and all that. The point youre missing is that everyone is asleep to a certain degree to all of the tactics that are used to control everything. You dont know that the Federal reserve is owned by a for profit group of rich families including JP Morgan and others. You are asleep. You dont know that wars and stock markets are manipulated for profits by this same group and others. You laugh when people like me tell you that the current president is illegally in office because it has been shown that laws were broken and valid votes were rejected way back in 1990 when this nightmare started to get darker.

    And so, giving your fingerprints is just another thing to do to be a good slave, err, I mean citizen.

    The IRS takes homes from people who didnt pay taxes, yet billions of our tax money was recently listed as ‘lost’ in Iraq. Not to mention the billions that are used to first blow it up and then rebuild it. Who gets that money? All the big boy defense companies with all the ex military and ex govt chairmen, board members, etc.

    Are there billions to rebuild New Orleans? How about after the LA riots of years ago. Are they rebuilt? What do you think?

    Stop going along like sleeping sheeple. You deserve better than to be treated like a potential criminal, which as others have said, wouldnt even PREVENT anything if you WERE a criminal.

    Off-topic? – its all connected……………..

  65. woodwi Says:

    Interesting. I had a similar situation at a well-known bank where I used to have an account. One day I went into another branch to cash my paycheck. They asked my for my fingerprint. I gave them my passport. They said they needed a print if I was going to cash the check. I said no. I talked to the manager. He said it was “policy” now becuase they had had so many problems with forged or stolen checks. I said that I understood, but that given the fact that I had multiple forms of ID, and that I was a customer, I was not interested in being treated as “guility until proven innocent.”

    The funny, or sad, thing about it was that the manager and tellers all treated me as if I was making such a big deal out of nothing. I was clearly the deviant here. They were not rude about it. In fact they were downright friendly. It was, after all, for my own protection. I closed my account later that week.

    My question has always been this: If we are so worried as a society about identity theft, then why are there so few laws in place to protect consumers from companies that misuse or “lose” personal information? But I guess I already know the answer to that. It has made me wonder though if there might exist a way to “copyright” my identity, or somehow own it in another legal sense (I’m not a lawyer so I am sure I am just dreaming here). It would be fun in your case to attach a document to the purchase of the car saying something to the effect that your personal information cannot be used, sold or otherwise shared for any other reason than the stated intent of verifying your identity as necessary for purchase of the car. I would love to see how that would go over.

    Anyway, glad to see I am not the only deviant out there.

  66. » Blog Archive » Can’t Buy Car without Thumbprint Says:

    […] Link (via lornamatic) […]

  67. Henry Bliss Says:

    Do what I do here in LA – ride a bike. No fingerprints, no license, no insurance, no registration, no car payments, not to mention no oil wars, or global warming either.

  68. Rick Says:

    After reading thru all the posts … I’m confused as to why/how the dealership would “actually” benefit by collecting and keeping a clients finger print on file. What they say vs why they do it can and often be two very different things. If we apply the golden rule (always follow the money trail) a better question might be … what is the root cause for asking clients to do this? Businesses and business owners don’t do anything unless there is a cash generation or cash loss avoidance reason to do it. Is there some kind of large insurance company benefit being pressured to avoid expensive theft claims? Are insurance companies simply theft claims if a procedure like this isn’t enacted on every transaction? Besides the business owners explanation and the debate about the visible topic, perhaps the debate is better directed at the reasons behind the scenes?

  69. lorna Says:

    Henry I wish. That sounds perfect. (You forgot the exercise and health benefits.) I work out of my home and drive less than 10k miles annually, but it seems like most of my trips wind up being 20 miles plus.

    Hopefully the early adopters of these biometrics will get the message loud and clear: people don’t like it. I really can’t see how it’s going to be a benefit for anyone. Except maybe the ink and paper companies.

    For those of you in LA, I may be on TV, ABC7 and NBC4. I’ll post more details when I get them!

  70. mike Says:

    whoa i just saw you on channel 7 news at 11pm! =D

  71. lorna Says:

    whoah! i was watching too – didn’t think it would be on tonight. neat!!! hi mom! ;)

  72. Ben Weiss Says:

    I think a better way to do the thumbprint thing would simply be to request that one of the car-purchasing documents be notarized (similar to how it’s already done with real-estate transactions). That way, the thumbprint is handled in a standardized manner, and both parties are presumably satisfied. Lorna, would you have bought the car under these conditions?

  73. lorna Says:

    Ben that is a great comment.

    According to the dealership, they’ve had four cars stolen so this is why they’re doing the thumbprints. I honestly don’t see how a thumbprint on paper will protect a dealership from theft. But if they insist that this data must be collected, it should probably be handled by someone who is trained and qualified to do it.

  74. Eddy Gordo Says:

    My mother tonge is not English but I can tell you that “autotheft” in one word would mean a theft that produces itself. And I think that where you are wrong. If you enter Taskforce for Regional Autotheft Protection in Scroogle (found at the first line is Regional Auto Theft Task Force – San Diego District Attorney.
    Is San Diego in California?
    For the rest you totally right. We give away enough details already in the public sector to be forced to do the same in the private sector.
    Well done!

  75. lorna Says:

    Hi Eddy, yep, San Diego is just a couple of hours south of Los Angeles. But it is a totally different municipality and county from LA. I’m not sure the two are related… thanks for your comment!

  76. Eddy Gordo Says:

    You know what. For us Europeans California is Los Angeles. Just kidding. I am here for the details as I got your story from
    See you!

  77. Ben Weiss Says:

    For something like collecting a thumbprint, presumably for use in future legal action, (or else why bother), it’s particularly important that it be handled by a neutral and legitimate third party. For the dealer to take the thumbprint themselves is vigilante justice; the dealer is just not qualified to handle that sort of information, just as a mortgage broker isn’t the one who takes your thumbprint. (Not to mention, the dealer-taken thumbprint is much less likely to stand up in court; it’s their word against the customer’s.) To preserve neutrality, mortgage brokers go through notaries, which makes the transaction legitimate and secure for everyone involved. And of course, for something as important as a car purchase, the customer might also want the security of notarization, especially given the slippery reputations of car dealers in general. I’ll spare you the unpleasant details of my past dealership experiences, but when I purchase my next car, I want to have the transaction documents notarized.

  78. lorna Says:

    Ben, that’s an amazing post and I think you stated real potential consequences quite well.

    I still think it’s totally unnecessary for a dealer to take it upon themselves to require this information. A dealership like South Bay BMW must have a lot of infrastructure, so how hard could it be for them to verify a wire transfer or a certified check? Somehow this happens all the time on Wall Street. I never heard of someone putting down a fingerprint to buy a stock, not even on margin.

  79. Ruth Mills Says:


    See no need for a thumbprint. If you give them a personal check and they give you a paid in full receipt for car, vin # and their insurance # so that you know that the car is covered until you pick it up, and other identifiers on purchase; you can pick it up the next banking day when the check clears and there is no question of fraud. Or you could have them call your bank to verify that there is sufficient funds to cover the purchase and the bank will block off the amount of the check to be drawn on it with your instructions to do so at the time you are handing the check to the car dealership. I was wondering if there was a problem with the customers checks vanishing at the dealership. The customer drives off with the car and the check goes out the back door into some gray financial cycle. The dealer would get shafted that way and the only way the dealer could verify that the transaction took place is with your thumbprint as well as a copy of the check. Just a thought.

  80. jim povi Says:

    thats so weird because i was just there this morning finalizing paperwork! yes…i did give them the thumbprint! argh! your comment about how thumbprints could be used to unlock doors, etc in the near future makes so much sense.
    wow…now i feel so stupid!

    haha i can’t believe you made ch7 news…awesome! i just watched the piece on abc7’s web.

    lesson learned…i will now be more weary about giving out personal info without question. Thanks Lorna

  81. lorna Says:

    Ruth, do you mean you think there’s insider fraud? It seems to me if the check can go missing, a thumbprint on a piece of paper can also go missing.

    Unless, as Ben suggests, the print is recorded by a neutral third party (like a notary), it really can’t be proved that someone at the dealership isn’t doing the defrauding.

    By the way, we’d have been fine with either doing a wire transfer or with waiting to complete the transaction until our payment cleared. Just not fine with “requests” that are demands, claimed to be “for my protection.”

    You can see a video of our interview tonight online on ABC7. It’s a great story though I’m a bit disappointed they didn’t mention this website!

    South Bay BMW’s comment to ABC4’s story was:
    “The taking of a thumb print, which is not done as a biometric device, helps protect consumers and the dealership from identity fraud and auto theft.”

    I’m not sure they know what they are trying to say. Anyone want to venture a guess?

    Just for fun, here’s Wikipedia’s definition of “biometric.”

  82. lorna Says:

    Jim, I am hopeful they will soon see the light of day and change their policy. You might call even the dealer tomorrow and let them know you’d like to know their policy for privacy, storage, and retrieval of your thumbprints. After all, they’re still *your* data! And – enjoy your new car!!!

  83. Allen Says:

    Interesting discussion here, I think I’ll play devils advocate on this since the argument seems to be mostly one-sided. It seems to me that the BMW dealer instituted this policy for good reason. If they have been the victims of fraud (Identity theft) several times in the past where someone that was purchasing a car was pretending to be someone else, I would think that requiring a thumbprint to purchase the car would definitely curb this kind of behavior. I mean after all, a criminal attempting to impersonate someone else is not going to want to give their thumbprint to the dealer only to be later tracked down by the police because of the thumbprint on file. Where am I going wrong here? The last time I purchased a car I gave my SS#, not to mention my DOB, address etc. which are much more important to me in terms of keeping secure then my thumbprint on a piece of paper (which I inadvertently leave everywhere I go unless I were to wear gloves). Curious, does anyone have any ideas how the dealer might address the fraud issue they have encountered outside of requiring a thumbprint? Someone had mentioned use better resources to verify funds, that sounds like a start but what happens when the funds are verified and still the person purchasing the car is not the person they say they are? In other words, whoever they are impersonating does have the funds available? I’m sure someone here will come up with a good idea. Hey Lorna maybe if you come up with a great idea on how to curb this fraud issue they have without requiring a thumbprint they’ll give you the X3 for your trouble,  probably doubtful but why not try?

  84. Gary LaPointe Says:

    It’s cash, how is fraud along those lines going to hurt you. I could see if they were to write a check, charge it or get a loan in your name then possibly you could have some identity theft issues, but it’s cash!

    I suppose they could commit a crime in it but anyone could commit a crime and “accidentally” say my name is Lorna if they wanted to implicate you…

  85. kwicker Says:

    I’m a bit of a smart @55, but I would have simply notified them of my new ‘customer’s policy’ of taking the salesman’s and dealership owner’s thumb print as a verification that they are not crooks as well. I wonder if Fritz Hitchcock would have flown in from Hawaii and given you his thumb print?

  86. normanx Says:


    I would find the same model that you wanted to buy…only a year old… with low miles… and buy it for the $10,000 less you would pay if it were new (particularly when you factor in the tax, dealer charges and inevitable etc. charges)… roll up to the dealership and thank them for steering you into a much, much better choice for your money and time. Send them a letter thanking them as well… explaining that when you bought the car used, the transaction was completed within ten minutes (as you were paying cash)… and that you would have never gone that route, had they not been so difficult…and thanks again etc….

  87. Alys Says:

    I’d hazard the guess that what SouthBay BMW SHOULD be saying is that the only protection in all this is on behalf of the dealer here?

    Someone fraudulently purchases a car and gives a thumbprint to seal the deal on the fake credit transaction (the only kind of transaction a dealership could say puts them in danger of not getting their cash, money up front in Lorna’s case makes it all the more needless to give over a fingerprint). Regardless, what would a thief care about giving a print, the dealership can’t run it through a national database to check anything, thus, the car still leaves the lot. Later, regular Citizen X comes forward saying “Hey, I didn’t buy that car, my identity was stolen” upon which the dealer whips out a filed thumbprint (assuming he hasn’t lost it), confirming that in fact Mr.X did NOT buy the car and the dealership isn’t going to get paid on the fake transaction but can now cry foul with tangible evidence and, perhaps, collect against the loss? Law enforcement might cue up at this point to say that they now have a print with which to find the rotten thief who started the whole ball rolling but, of course, the real odds of success there are low. The real issue, as far as the dealership goes, would not be the community service of catching bad guys anyway, it’s protecting their money.

    All-in-all, can’t see a damn place where the interests of the consumer are anywhere involved, and laughed at SouthBay BMW’s “legal statement” on the news last night. Any poor soul whose identity was stolen to perpetrate this type of crime is already in a personal hell of frozen accounts, cancelled credit and SSN one way or another once they discover the fraud but, when all is done, they would not be liable for the car once their identity is cleared. So in essence, giving up a thumbprint to buy a car is just a fat favor to the dealership to protect their losses in the event that you are not who you say you are? If you ARE who you say you are, then have a high hope that the dealership protects your biometric information— when the day comes that it is a personal means of identifying yourself, you could wind up a poor Mr.X all because you were forced to help protect the monetary interests of a car dealership.

    Thanks for all your hard research on this Lorna, this has been so eye-opening. My husband and I were going to check out SouthBay BMW for our next cars, coming up in a few months, but now I think not! Luckily here in LA there are plenty of BMW dealerships to choose from.

  88. doo Says:

    I began, about ten years ago, resisting businesses who try to collect unnecessary/irrelevant data for a sale. I simply refuse to give my phone number to buy a kid’s toy (TRU). I once walked out of Circuit City because they insisted they needed my personal info to sell me a printer. Their reason? I could not return the item otherwise. They would not honor their own sales receipt. I left the item at the checkout and went straight to Best Buy (with no hassles).

    We must curb this voracious demand for unnecessary personal information.

    Orwell was wrong. The government need not become totalitarian to create Oceana. The corporations are happy to do all the work for them. And I refuse to make it easy for them.

  89. Chris Says:

    Please don’t go on TV anymore. There are far more important issues in this world that should get that time on the news besides how hard it was for you to buy your precious beemer. Just go to another dealer and get the freakin car and leave the rest of us out of it. Thank you and may God bless you.

  90. Gigi Says:

    Glad you’re getting press on this. This was an outrageous request–and we need to fight the continued assumption that businesses are entitled to our personal information. I walked away from a car sale three years ago when the dealer insisted that he needed my SSN to do a credit check when I was paying cash. I had nothing to hide, but it upset me that my personal information could go into a manila folder that can be accessed by any salesman (or other dealership employee) intent on larceny.

  91. Mel Says:

    This could possibly be one of the most ridiculous uses of time I have ever witnessed. I am embarrassed to be subscribing to it. Although, I feel an obligation to stand up for the dealership who is doing nothing other than trying to give a potential threat to your (and everyone else’s) identity an extra step or hoop to jump through in the attempt to “DETER” the threat. If this keeps ONE persons information from being used illegitimately, then in my opinion, it works, and is of value…especially if your identity is “the ONE.” I’m sure THAT person wouldn’t be subscribing to the long winded banter of a disgruntled car shopper with less than adequate artistic skills to be drawing her own illustrations.

    What is the benefit to Southbay BMW for doing this? Do you think they want to lose a sale? I bet they are just aching for you to leave their showroom and go buy your car from their competition, but are too polite to just ask you to leave, so they have concocted this fingerprinting procedure to do it secretly. Dumb it down people… They are actually trying to do something good. Imagine that!!!! A place of business, an auto dealer at that, trying to do good business and actually caring about more than just making the sale.

    I have purchased my personal vehicle as well as three of my company vehicles from Southbay BMW. If you were too shift the spotlight slightly to the left, out of the “Corner of Frivolous”, and look at the things that make them so different from the average auto dealer; maybe this practice would make a little more sense to you. Last year, I as a customer, was invited to a private performance with major artists AT their dealership that included a five course dinner and open bar. It didn’t cost me a dime and was just to thank me for being a customer. If you were to look at the whole picture to see who this dealership is, and how they operate, you probably would not be so suspicious of their genuine motives. Although, who can blame you for being suspicious… I mean, we live in a world where people take advantage of us, steal our money, and steal our identities. Wouldn’t it be amazing if their were actually people trying to stop that?

  92. J. G. Says:

    Hi Lorna,

    I’m a reporter and would like to talk to you your adventure. I don’t want to publish my phone number, but can you e-mail me at the address I provided? I’ll give you more details when we talk. I look forward to hearing from you.

  93. J. G. Says:

    Well, my first message doesn’t seem to be up there. I’m a reporter and would love to talk to you about what happened. Look forward to hearing from you.

  94. David Nusbaum Says:

    It seems to me that some instances of identity theft come from identity collection measures like this one. A thief once stole a bunch of Blockbuster card applications from the store near my house. I was contacted by the police when they caught the guy. The LAPD officer said that I was smart for not providing Blockbuster with my social security number because the theives were trying to steal people’s identity from the cards. Don’t ever give out personal information to people who don’t need it.

  95. Alys Says:

    Wow. Isn’t it “dumbing it down” to say blanket statements such as they are “doing good” without actually showing a shred of support for that statement (complimentary dinner with the big-wigs notwithstanding)? The problem is that the dealership’s SOLUTION to the theft issue only benefits them. Period. Not the consumer, in any way… which I think has been most everyone’s point for the better part of a week.

    Glad you enjoy your cars from that dealership Mel, they are lucky to have the blind support of customers such as yourself.

  96. Anon Says:

    I had to go thru the same deal and i tried to resist but then gave up. I am getting my car this week and this will be last time i buy a BMW from south bay… my 2 cents

  97. Peter Says:

    You missed a lot in your research. But the real issue is that you miss the point of the fingerprinting. The dealership is handing over a very expensive vehicle and if you are not who you say your are, they’ve lost it – even if you’ve given them a check for the full amount. The identity thief would be happy to write as many of those as you like. You are correct that if they release the vehicle and all they have is the identity thief’s thumbprint, the dealership has still lost the vehicle unless that print is on file somewhere. But if someone has all of your information and buys that car in your name and the dealership doesn’t have a thumbprint that can show that you actually didn’t buy that car, your credit will suffer while the issue is being investigated and maybe beyond. If the person trying to buy that car the other night wasn’t you, you would probably be just as upset if the dealership was irresponsible enough to deliver a car against your good name without getting some additional assurance that the person saying she was you, actually was.

    Fingerprinting of vehicle purchasers is a response to a serious problem. It doesn’t fully resolve it by any means, but the LAPD, the Monrovia PD and TRAP (which does exist – it is a multjurisdictional force to combat auto theft which tends to reach accross jurisdicational lines) all have programs to promote having car dealerships take thumbprints – as the most effective way to combat this crime. As several of the responses have suggested, it’s not that big a deal. It’s on a piece of paper that is stored with the other documents in the transaction. The basic credit report authorization is required to be stored for at least 25 months and if you bought the car for up to 10 years. They can’t just give it all back without being vulnerable under other laws.

    There is nothing sinister about all of this. Notaries (less regulated than dealerships) require thumbprints, as do real estate transacations, as you point out. Many banks require thumbprints. Like you, I use a fingerprint to secure my computer. Key machines use thumbprints for access. Having it makes the identity concern a little less.

  98. Lina Says:

    I think that you are absolutely outrageous exploiting a car dealership like that and making them seem like the bad guys when you are the one who was too uptight to give your fingerprint. You are buying the car correct? With your own funds? Then why are you freaking out about giving your fingerprint for an expensive vehicle that somebody actually might steal or one that people frequently try to purchase because of price? Unless you are a trying to commit a crime- which it seems like you are because every other normal client gives their fingerprint no problem once they understand the reasons behind it- you should have no reason to be hasty. I go to UCLA, too.. I just had my info hacked into as well, it sucks I know. And I have bought a BMW at South Bay BMW and nothing has happened.. and YES I had to provide my fingerprint, as well. Your policy on your blog of having to leave my email address (even though it will not be published) is similar to the process done at BMW. I don’t want to give that to you, either. But you know what, I do because that’s what I have to do to get my point across. Point being, the fingerprint policy is what you have to do to get into a BMW. But if you don’t like it fine, walk away, someone else will surely buy that vehicle.. don’t worry. You don’t need to make this blog exaggerating your car shopping experience; bad mouthing a professional and honest car dealership. But honestly, ma’m, your little stint to get on the news and attempt to give an honest business a bad name is very trashy and let me remind you that the only person who is making you like a criminal is.. YOU!! What kind of customer lashes out and acts as you do, making a huge scene and what not?… a guilty one. Good luck to all the car dealerships who will have to work with a customer as difficult as yourself.

  99. lorna Says:

    Mel, I’ll paraphrase Ben Franklin:

    Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
    Those who give up both for dinner and a little cheap flattery, deserve a good swift kick in the pants.

    Normanx, yes, it’s not a bad idea at all. The new X3 has a better engine with (for its class) reasonable gas mileage. So I’ll just sit tight and wait. I have never bought a car new before, and I don’t particularly need a new car, so I have the freedom to walk away from the sale. To Anon and others who bought their cars with fingerprint, I think you’ll agree that it was something slipped in at the end of the process. I have this story posted in hopes of informing others what to expect, so no one else gets caught at the very last minute and pressured into giving information they’d rather not.

    Besides, yuck, they want you to put your thumb in some greasy tub of slime. Every other person who ever bought a car there for the last three months ran their fingers through it too.

    David, thanks for your Blockbuster comment. That’s not a thing that would have even occurred to me.

    Lina, you sound like a peach.

    And Chris, this story is on TV because many other people also care about it. Ethics of data security is one of the most interesting and difficult questions our culture is facing. If you care enough about important issues, I’ll invite you to take the time to write them down in your own blog, rather than using your own precious time to insult me on mine. Use your own time and effort to get them publicized. That’s how it works: the internet (and as it turns out, the local news) is big enough for both of us.

  100. Michael Says:

    By the numbers for a minute:

    1. South Bay states 4 cars were stolen (via ABC last might, and we’ll assume this applies to the past year).
    According to the website
    2. South Bay sold $202.1M in merchandise in 2005.
    3. South Bay sold 3952 cars during the same period, for an average purchase price of $51,138.

    If that’s all true, then stolen vehicles represented a cost of approximately 0.1% — that’s $51.13 / car.

    Why should people pay increased privacy risk for a cost of $50?

    Of course, enough exclusive dinners like Mel’s might just make up the difference, too.

  101. lorna Says:

    Peter, thanks for your comment. I definitely have trouble when anyone says uses the word “request” to mean “required”.

    You’re right: I don’t get the point of the fingerprinting. I don’t see how it protects the dealer because it’s simply not a transaction that’s done in a legal way (meaning admissible in court). I think you mistake my claim: I am saying this is a foolish policy that could potentially put consumers at risk. And further the dealer is actually not protecting itself by having a staff member taking the customer’s fingerprint.

    As Ben said above, Notaries are important because they are a neutral third party. Notaries in CA are highly regulated. If the dealer wants fingerprints, do it the correct right way and have an on-site notary.

  102. GEORGE Says:


  103. Louis Elovitz Says:

    I bought my Toyota mini pickup in 1993,

    it now has 220,000 same engine, going strong.

    Anyway, I bought it at Longo Toyota then with

    $9500 CASH. I was there all day waiting about 7 HOURS.

    Now, they did not ask for any fingerprints, but anyway!

    When I read your story it struck a bell. They did let me

    go down into their Indie Car museum, still?

    My truck was made in Tennessee and many Delco parts.

    I love it.


  104. Tnandy Says:

    I just love these idiots that think a thumbprint will do anything to stop fraud or a crime…..just “feel good” policies that have no effect except to antagonize their customer base. Absolutely AMAZING how some businesses go out of their way to be anti-business ! Radio Shack used to be bad about wanting your phone number, for something even as simple as a pack of batteries purchased. I wouldn’t give it to them, just out of plain ornryness…..Clerk would say “But I HAVE to enter you in the computer”…..and I’d reply “Buddy….we’re right at that point in the road where you have to decide if SELLING stuff is more important than COLLECTING information……your call “.

    By the way, TRUE crooks like me know all you have to do is put a dab of clear silicone caulk on your thumb before you go into a place requiring a print and the resulting “print” is totally worthless, and different every time….ahahahahaaaaa

  105. liz Says:

    Why and how does the DMV have your fingerprint to begin with? I just renewed my SC driver’s license this week…… no fingerprint. If I wanted to buy a hitchcock beemer…. how would I?> WTF???????????????????????????????????????

  106. Mike Says:

    Hello Lorna,
    Thank you for reporting this. Thank you for being one out of hundreds to not be sucked in. As others have posted, it is troubling and does not bode well for the future of this nation when people so easily relinquish their fundamental rights against self incrimination. We will always have crime. What I find equally disturbing is your comments on leaving a “fingerprint” when you visit blog sites. As a relative new “surfer” could you explain this? Or perhaps direct me to a link? Thank you.
    Ubi Dubium Ipi Liberata!

  107. Mike Says:

    Correction(hit wrong key)

    Ubi Dubium Ibi Liberatas!

  108. Sashi Says:

    I think that you really need to get back ALL the copies of any personal information that the dealership is in possession of. Have your lawyer request it so that he can word it legally that they have to return EVERY SINGLE piece of paper that has your information on it. No loopholes. I think that the whole experience is very sinister. Just because it’s a BMW dealership, it’s still basically run by one man. Suppose he is really collecting all of this information to use illegally? I mean it doesn’t seem to me like he really cares about selling cars. Maybe he has another source of income or a plan for another one? One that is more lucrative and less legal. Anyway, this is probably not the case but, it’s better to be paranoid and safe.

  109. John Says:

    Regarding TRAP, there is such a unit that’s run by the DMV. The dealership didn’t make that up. TRAP was put in place to make sure dealers are treating their customer’s right. This is a unit that investigates dealerships to make sure they are doing things right. Now, I don’t agree with the way they treated you, but ID thieves are really focusing in on dealerships these days because of the high-ticket item vehicles represent. So, the actions this dealership took doesn’t suprise me. However, I don’t agree with how you were treated.

  110. J. Shamburger Says:

    You might want to simply consider NOT buying a new car from ANY dealership.
    I have found that buying second hand, well maintained vehicles from first time owners you usually don’t have to do anything but hand over the cash…

    The system isn’t going to change – it will get much worse as our government tries to protect us from everything – skinned knees, tripping on the garden hose, backing over the kids bicycle, etc. You cannot legislate safety – you can only raise the penalties. You cannot legislate away crime – you increase it with more of these stupid laws…

    Buck the system – buy a used car and let all the regional distributors kiss your bottom!!

  111. Mel Says:


    With every one of your postings it becomes clear that you have a knack for reading your own meanings into things. “Giving up Essential Liberty” ? The “mellow drama” is killing me.

    It is apparent that I need to spell it out for you. It is not about dinner… it’s about being “unique…different” and that is what dinner and thanking your customers represents. That is what taking an extra step to “Deter” a threat rather than “taking the money and running” represents. And that is the point that you have led many of these bloggers to miss… This fingerprinting process is meant as a deterrent… nothing more. You have misplaced this whole issue to focus on your own agenda for your little 15 minutes of fame.

    How many people has it deterred? There is no equation for that is there, Michael (who’s equation was based on theft not fraud)?

    And by the way…”Lina, you sound like a peach.”??? Who says that? You are the laughing stock of SoCal right now and don’t even realize it. I think most of these bloggers are probably writing to egg you on because you are so entertaining.

  112. Alyson Says:

    Lorna, you seem pretty internet savvy (hence your “professional” internet drawings). If you have EVER purchased ANYTHING online, you will notice that they ask for your credit card, exp. date, date of birth, ect. That information can easily be sold, hacked into, ect… You probably don’t think twice about submitting that information online to MILLIONS of people who have access to your personal information, with the ability to abuse it.

    It is unbelieveable that you can ramble on for days on end about how outraged you are that someone is trying to discourage (again, not completely prevent, but deter) identity theft when you buy such a high ticket item as a new BMW. Who cares if South Bay BMW IS trying to protect themselves as well. They are smart. And, I absolutely respect that. You, my dear, need a life and need to step into 2007.

  113. lorna Says:

    Mike, you asked for more information about what’s viewable about you online, and it’s a good thing to be aware of.

    Sometimes it’s kind of fun. For instance, I only need to look at the server logs to see that Mel and Alyson are writing from the same IP address. That means that they are either the same person, or were sitting about 10 feet from each other. I could go further just based on that ‘electronic thumbprint’ they left behind, but I’m pretty sure that they care about their privacy too.

    If you want more information about this, I would recommend a visit to and read their explanation. It’s confusing, but worth it to actually get educated about this stuff.

  114. Alys Says:

    Mel, you sound like quite a peach yourself.

    Regarding your “unique [and] different” dinner, sounds like you plunk down a chunk of cash at that dealership for personal and corporate vehicles— if they can keep your $$$ flowing into their coffers with a token dinner, hell, you’re a cheap date. As to fingerprints, do please elaborate on HOW they deter theft in this type of scenario—you keep claiming they do but failing to spell out anything of substance that backs your statement.

    Btw, I’ve never addressed an omniscient being before— I’m sure the entire SoCal region thanks you for representing them on this issue… you’d know that better than I, of course.

  115. Dan Says:

    Mel/Alyson gives out his/her date of birth to buy stuff online? And he/she has had her identity stolen? Why am I not surprised?

    Whenever a website requires information that it has no business asking for, I get something from Works like a charm.

    I am in the market for a new car, and thanks to Lorna, now I won’t be blindsided if a stealership ‘asks’ for my fingerprints.

  116. Mel Says:

    (LOL) …So Nancy Drew, Alyson and I are the same person?

    I work in an eight story, two block wide building…guess what? Everyone in that building has the same IP address.

    I hope you spent more time on the fingerprinting research than you did on your IP address research. Cheers!

  117. Mike Jennings Says:

    Social security number is more useful for identity theft now, and we’ve now seen the results of letting it get out there. In the (near) future, biometric data is going to replace it as a key identifier. This is why you need to protect this data starting right now.

  118. Terry Lowe Says:

    Here is a link to a list of data thefts aroung the country:

    Call me a loonbat if you will, but my belief is that some entity, perhaps our own government, is hell bent on collecting every American citizen’s information for a data base and for a reason we do not yet know. What could possibly be the purpose? Why is there so little protection by these institutions and if they can’t stop these numerous and systematic thefts, why would we trust a car dealer with our information? I bet each and every one of you reading this is onthe list (linked above) of stolen information!

  119. no more fwds » Blog Archive » DNA please Says:

    […] lornamatic details their incredible (and I mean literally in-credible, as in un-believable) story of a BMW dealership requiring a thumbprint to buy a car. Why? To keep up safe. […]

  120. Bill Hudson Says:

    Lorna, I stand behind you 100% about protecting personal information. Never had “I-T” happen to me because I have been so paranoid about the subject. Ever since the early ’80’s, when I worked on the computer systems where such data are collated. For 20 years, I was just a “paranoid old crank”. The last few, though, it seems like I was actually a little visionary.
    Had a similar experience a number of years back, cashing a payroll check drawn on that bank from a large, international company. I got a little heavy handed and managed to break the (non-safety) glass in the front door. After I recovered the paycheck from the manager when he wouldn’t give it back; after refusing to cash it. WITH THE FINGERPRINT ON IT! Last time I’ll ever trust ANY of the bastards. S’quse mah frainch… A week in jail for breaking OUT of a bank. I think that’s a first…
    Let’s see now: IP address: My DSL carrier presents the same IP address for all customers. An entire county. is what I do. Mostly a place for an Email address. All of it will point back to S. Carolina, where most of my work is. But I reside some 300 miles from here. And, that, dear, you WON’T find out. Even the vehicle tags and other information go through blinds from that address.
    So, am I a criminal? Only in that I believe in working for a living and being left alone. I don’t work, I don’t eat. It’s that simple. And hiding from the “public” is how I stay “left alone”. ?Like some interesting insight into privacy vs “public” knowledge? I use “Black’s Law Dictionary”, 1993 edition. Black’s is a standard accepted by the “courts” in this country. Read up on the word “public”. The definition is NOT the same as colloquial usage. We joke about “reading the dictionary” as though it is a waste of time. But, to read Black’s Law is to understand just how we are being manipulated.
    Bill Hudson; Paranoid Old Crank, et al
    Large International Company: US Steel, Fairfield Iron, Steel and Casting
    Bank: AmSouth Bank of Birmingham Ala (where the payroll account was)
    Computers: Field Engineer for Wang Computers, in the FSM and Republics of Palau & Marshals and the CNMI. Local governments under the auspices of the U.S. Dept of Interior. What a crock… All we ever gave them was beer cans along the roads, diesel generators and tinned fish.

  121. AutoMuse » Car Price May Include Fingerprint Barter? Says:

    […] As if buying a car is not complicated enough, at least one BMW dealer in California has added yet another layer of complication to the activity.  A well-spoken blogger in California wrote about her attempted car buying experience that culminated in a “No Sale” all because the dealership refused to sell her the vehicle unless she first provided her right thumbprint. […]

  122. Missives from the Technocave Says:

    Biometrics for a Beemer?

    Give this a read.
    Sound familiar? How about when I put it like this:
    1. We must do something to prevent fraud in buying autos!
    2. Taking your thumbprint is something!
    3. It must be done!

  123. Fredrick Says:

    Im sorry.. but i dont agree with everything you say. i have no problem leaving a fingerprint for a major purchase. if you go cash a check at a bank,you leave a fingerprint. If you refinance your house you leave a fingerprint. Having your social security number on a application is far more dangerous than your thumb print. just my 2 cents.

  124. David Says:

    ID theft? The only reason or way someone can steal someone else’s ID is because the government and financial institutions have created an ID ‘problem’ to begin with. But that is typical,,, they create a problem so “they” can provide the solution,, which causes only more problems. If no one had any “ID” or credit cards or the “almighty” social insecurity number then their really wouldn’t be anyway or reason to ‘steal’ someones ID. So the solution is get rid of Ids of all kinds………………..

  125. heidi Says:


    I leased a BMW 3X sports model one month ago….since I am 55 and lost my mind for a moment, I thought I could enjoy driving it and look younger! the car but my back issues are making it difficult…am looking for someone to take over the 3 yr lease…$596.88/mo….interested? Dark silver with black leather interior, all the bells and whistles!

    Sorry for your trouble!


  126. Mel Says:

    Just wanted to make sure everyone saw the NBC news update on this issue. Apparently it looks like lorna made a big to-do and made several false statements about something that the auto industry has been doing for years and is actually becoming a more prevalent practice. So either get some really comfortable sneakers or deal with the thumbprint issue. As Frederick stated, leaving your ss# is much more dangerous and we have all been conditioned to do that without a second thought.

    Also, lorna… thanks for trying to block the IP address of my entire company to keep Alyson and I from offering our comments. There is something to be said for a fair and balanced blog. What are you afraid of?

  127. lorna Says:

    Fredrick, thanks for your opinion – it’s really about what the consumer is comfortable with at the end of the day.

    Heidi, you’re a sweetheart, thank you so much for your offer. I was hoping for a lighter color interior – black gets SO hot here. I think that car sounds perfect for you anyway!

    And Mel, welcome back – we missed you. Glad you’re following along on TV, though I don’t think we saw the same NBC story. You were spending so much time here, I started getting worried you weren’t paying enough attention to your work.

  128. Mad as Hell Says:

    Lorna, you go gurl!

    With all the people that auto dealers lie and cheat it’s funny how they now treat their customers like theives.

    I would have walked out also and wish more people did.

    The ID theft problem is caused by banks and people who handle our personal information. Also if the courts treated ID theft as a real crime with real strong jail time it would stop. Right now it is rarely investigated.

  129. Davi Ottenheimer Says:

    Definitely some interesting perspectives coming through this discussion. Couple of quick notes for those who have commented in support of the dealer’s actions:

    1) Equating an email address to biometric information is a very curious practice. These two bits of information are so vastly different when it comes to actual security calculations (asset value, etc.) , I am truly surprised to see anyone try and make such a point.

    2) The issue is not about how nice a dealership might be or how pleasant they are when you are compliant with their demands. It is about how a company manages your sensitive identity information, especially when there is no risk to them if they mishandle the information. No amount of positive relations and perks can change the fact that a company may engage in the type of improper information handling practices linked to identity theft and/or privacy violations. A thorough and independent information security audit would be the correct and fair approach to assessing “goodness” in this scenario. Do they have a privacy policy? Do they follow the policy…etc.

    While I agree in principle that a dealer needs to use an identification process to reduce the risk of grand theft, this does not mean they should be free to demand whatever identity information they want without proper safeguards and assurances to the consumer. Yes, I know this is completely counter to the Ashcroft-led movement that says Americans will be free only when everyone has surrendered all of their privacy to loosely regulated private firms like ChoicePoint (who then will sell it to the government(s) and/or use it to “clean” elections):,12271,949709,00.html

    Again, Lorna was clearly wise to ask for clarification and then walk away if not satisfied. The trickier question is really how a consumer/citizen can get comfortable with information security practices of companies without some kind of accountable oversight body or independent regulation.

  130. Pam Says:

    Good for you to refuse the finger print! How atrocious that only a few others complained about this practice. People need to start waking up and standing up against such invasions of privacy. We are most definitely entering the realm of Orwell’s 1984, though most of the population has no clue this is happening and act like sheep simply following the herd without questioning much of anything. The rumors about having a national id card, limiting travel and the building of government detainment camps for US citizens seem all the more real when you can’t even go buy a damn car without giving your life away. The sad thing about this all is how the thieves they are supposedly protecting you against know how to work the system and would find a way around the stupid finger print requirement. It’s only hindering good, honest citizens. People, read the Patriot Act – you wouldn’t believe what’s in there and what’s happening to your liberties!

  131. Jay Says:

    Digital fingerprints, those used to log on to your PC or open a door, are nothing more than templates made from 1’s & 0’s. It may be fine to a degree, but as we move to using it as identification for banking, online credit card transactions, etc., it will become no more secure (or just as unsecure) as anything else we’re using. If someone can hack the systems to steal the data, they can create the “template” for a transaction. No one will know whether they just swiped their finger on a reader, or sent a duplicate template. When that time comes, I would’nt want my fingerprints on file at car dealers and retailers, etc.

    My 2 cents.

  132. evlfred Says:

    What everyone seems to forget is that the dealership is under no obligation to sell you a car. Just as you are under no obligation to purchase one. At our dealership, we will not sell a car to anyone who will not identify themselves. It’s our right to require identification and your right to refuse to do so.

  133. lorna Says:

    evlfred, thanks for your comment. It’s really interesting to hear from people in the industry. In this case, I think I provided way more than enough information for the transaction for any car dealer, and when that still wasn’t enough for this dealer, I left.

    Dealerships can only afford to refuse so many sales before it cuts into profits. But when some dealership starts going all homeland security on its customers, there’s just not a good enough deal for me to willingly support that.

    I believe that the only reason 5200 people gave their fingerprints to that dealership is because the negotiation process wears the customer down completely – it’s designed to. After you’ve spent so much effort shopping and then haggling, and the dealer sneaks in this policy at the last minute, well – most people feel stuck in the deal. They don’t feel like they can say no, so they don’t. That doesn’t mean it’s a good policy, it just means people don’t feel like they have a choice, and that’s what stinks about it.

    Bottom line? To this dealership, my lost sale is the equivalent of 25% of their stated last years’ losses to fraud.

    They said one other person walked out because of this policy in the past three months. If they lose one sale over this every three months, they’re exactly break-even with the losses from fraud. Currently, they’re at double that.

    Except losing your customers due to your own bad policies, that isn’t covered by insurance.

  134. evlfred Says:

    It wouldn’t be 25% of the loss, they don’t make 100% profit on every car they sell, and the other commenter’s numbers are way off too. If a dealer looses a car to theft they loose the profit equal to at least 20 cars. And most won’t claim it on insurance, because their insurance rate (which would shock you) would rise alot. I’ve had customers refuse to provide even a drivers license copy to me, and we refused to sell them a car. In one case a lady was so upset she tried to call the governors office to “tell on us”. The bottom line is, if that’s what that dealership requires and you don’t like it, go elsewhere. Obviously, it is helping them reduce losses, or they wouldn’t be doing it.

    Also, don’t bother trying to get the dealership to return all copies of your information. If they pulled a credit bureau on you they are required by low to maintain that information for at least 24 months. However they are also required to keep it secure with limited access. We are very careful with all information left with us.

  135. evlfred Says:

    FTC’s Information Safeguards Rule and the Consumer Information Disposal Rule are both applied to dealerships and enforced rigorously. Not to mention the Privacy act, the Equal Opportunity Credit Act, and yes, the Patriot Act to some degree. Read an industry publication sometime (like Dealer magazine available online) every issue there are several articles about “compliance”, meaning compliance with Laws and Regulations in the auto industry. I think it would be a real eye opener for you.

  136. lorna Says:

    wow, I need to close the comments on this post soon due to all the incoming spam, but I really don’t want to.

    evlfred, thanks again for the comments. point taken regarding profit / loss. As for not liking the policy, that’s the exact point I want to make. You can always go elsewhere, but I believe it’s actually important to say no when you don’t like someone’s made-up, non-standard policy.

    Here’s a totally straightforward question for you. If a 100% loss on a stolen car comes to $50 per car (the four lost cars number came directly from the dealership in question, the average cost number may be off but with four lost cars it seems like it’s the right ballpark), why wouldn’t a dealer simply add that into the price for all new cars, rather than trying to take fingerprints? That’s usually what a store does when there’s loss: prices go up. Why would you decide to fingerprint all your customers? Where does that even come from? Most customers aren’t going to shop elsewhere to save $50 on a $30K purchase. I wouldn’t, but I was so surprised with the fingerprint demand that I went home and wrote about it. I suppose if you don’t know a dealer’s doing this, you get stuck with the demand at the end of the process and comply, but at least if you know some dealers are doing it, you have the choice to shop around to one that doesn’t.

    In terms of keeping things secure, especially in any kind of retail environment I’ve worked in places where I was astonished by the amount of unsecured data, and I’ve worked in places that were unbelieveably careful. Both places would claim to be extremely careful and you can’t tell from the outside what you’re dealing with. UCLA was extremely careful – they had a break-in anyway. I believe completely that your dealership is careful, and I’m sure there are many dealerships that take this very seriously, but after this whole experience I am reminded why it’s important to not offer up information when you’re not legally bound to do so.

    I’m glad to hear there’s a lot of concern from the auto sales industry regarding this. When these guys presented me with a photocopied legal-ish document with spelling mistakes, that’s when I started thinking: maybe this company is not as careful as I would like for them to be. And that’s when I walked out, and I’d do it again if the same thing happened tomorrow. If one good thing came out of it, people who’ve read this post will be more aware and careful with how any personal data is used.

    I read up on many of the topics you mentioned above while learning about all this. And my conclusion is that when a merchant asks for extra information that isn’t legally required to close the sale, it is because they are trying to protect their own interests, and often at the potential risk of my own interests.

    Curious, what do you think about the Dollar-Rent-A-Car results from their similar thumbprint experiment? The company dropped it, because it bothered customers and in the end it didn’t make a difference to their bottom line.

  137. evlfred Says:

    I would say that while on the surface the Dollar-Rent-A-Car issue would seem to relate, I don’t think it applies. For one, I really doubt that there are chop shops out there just itching for Dollar-Rent-A-Car vehicles to process, but I’m sure any would be ready for a new brand new BMW. Second, why would an identity thief go to all the trouble of researching someone and taking all their info to go down and rent a car? Not much profit in it. Third, when someone is laundering money, new vehicles are considered prime property, that’s why the IRS makes us report all cash sales in excess of $9999, and I would imagine new BMW’s are on top of the list for launderers.

  138. lorna Says:

    I’d guess most of the Dollar Rent A Car fraud was aimed at reselling stolen parts for things like Toyotas. There’s something to be said for having mass market consumers for your chop-shop parts.

    I don’t have any info about fraud directly from dealers, you would know this better than I, but there are two BMW models on the HLDI 10 most stolen new car list, the 7 series and the X5. Most people who would be buying a 7 series or an X5 probably should be able to provide two forms of photo ID, like a license and a passport. Many state agencies don’t ever require more data than that, although the new RFID passports are reportedly insecure, and hey, have you seen those new ink-jet printers?

    I suspect the IRS has many reasons for tracking high dollar cash sales, but it seems that is much more likely due to people notoriously forgetting to claim cash transactions on their tax returns. The IRS doesn’t care about stopping car theft – they don’t even require a thumbprint to file your taxes. Ahem.

    I’m closing comments because I really don’t need any more offers for cheap viagra and it’s killing my blackberry battery. If you have more to say, you can always reach me at the email address you’d expect.

    I still don’t feel like I have a clear answer on why or how thumbprinting deters car thieves, but I’ve learned a lot in the last week. Thank you all for the comments and conversation – this has been a much more interesting adventure than I thought I would be having when I walked into a car dealership last week.