Torrance, Calif.— A Southern California dealership was the center of several morning news reports last week, including ABC News, after it refused to complete a sales transaction without a customer’s fingerprint — a policy the Torrance, Calif.-based dealership implemented to protect itself from ID thieves.

The dealership, South Bay BMW, said it has completed thousands of transactions since implementing its thumbprint policy, and said it has even caught an ID thief in the act. But that still wasn’t good enough for blogger Lorna Brown, whose refusal to be fingerprinted captured the attention of several media outlets.

Brown, a South Bay resident who covers a variety of topics on her Lornamtic blog, wrote that she had already agreed on the car, the price and trade-in. But when she put down the cash payment she was told the transaction couldn’t be completed without her thumbprint.

“My husband and I asked many questions about this process,” she wrote in her March 17 posting. “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.”

Dissatisfied with the dealership’s reasons for the policy, and after hearing that it could not guarantee that her thumbprint would be safely stored away, she walked away with out the X3 she intended to purchase.

“At the recommendation of its lenders and local police agencies, South Bay BMW has for some time maintained a policy similar to that utilized by other dealerships and businesses of requesting a thumbprint from persons buying or leasing a vehicle,” wrote Brent Smith, an attorney for the dealership, in a prepared statement. “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. South Bay BMW has transacted business with thousands of customers following this policy without complaint and maintains the information collected in a confidential manner consistent with its handling of other sensitive consumer information.”

Heightened security measures in order to mitigate the risk of identity theft are taking place at dealerships across the United States. Brown noted in her post that according to BMW staff, the thumbprint policy has been in place for more than three months.

Hitchcock Automotive Resources, owner of South Bay BMW, said that all of its five dealerships have implemented the thumbprint ID verification policy in hopes of curbing identity theft.

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