Preventing identity theft

Wednesday, May 7th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Police officers call it the simplest crime ever devised, stealing someone else's identity. And, the problem is, the government, the banks and the police can't help you.

So you have to become a smarter consumer in order to keep others from becoming your imposter. News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright takes a look at local case and how you can learn from it.

These are the cancelled checks written by a man claiming to be Vivian. He's been on quite a shopping spree. Terry Vivian, identity theft victim: "He went to Wolf Camera, Home Depot, Lowes, Warehouse Market, Braums, O'Reillys and Texaco." Fullbright: "And it happened so fast?" Terry: "All this happened in four days." And, it would've been much worse if Vivian didn't check her bank account every single day.

She'd ordered two boxes of checks through the mail, one arrived, one was stolen and the saga began. "The bank, who's been great, called credit services which gives up seven years protection against them opening a credit card in our name." The Vivian's have spent days canceling their account, calling the stores, filling out affidavits of forgery and trying to protect their good name for the future.

Plus, they live with the knowledge the man knows where they live. "It's stressed me out. I hope they catch this guy. I hope Circuit City and Lowes get his picture and the police move with hit. My heart goes out to all these companies out the money.” Even if Lowe's has the suspect's picture, the store would have to be willing to pursue the case. As strange as it seems, the police don't consider the Vivian's to be the victims of this crime because they're not out any money. It's the stores who are out the money, but they are often reluctant to prosecute.

They say it's cheaper and less time consuming just to write it off as a cost of doing business.

Here's some good news, the nations' three major credit bureaus have agreed to share the information when people report their identities have been stolen.