IDENTITY theft a problem locally


Wednesday, May 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


People testifying on Capitol Hill this week say we make it too easy for people to steal our personal information. 1,400 people report this type of fraud every week, a half million people are victims every year.

KOTV's Lori Fullbright has been looking into the problem locally. A lot of people don't take this crime seriously, but it can cause financial ruin for the victims and take them years to get their credit back in the black. 19-year-old Christina Thompson was working two jobs just to make ends meet. At her pizza delivery job in February, she ran inside to grab another order and left her car running, in the 90 seconds she was away, it was gone. The worst part was her ID's and checks were in the car, too. "They went to Robertson Tire, Kohls, Subway, Taco Bell, they've been all over the place." They wrote more than $6,000 worth of bad checks under Thompson's name, and were still doing it until last week when police finally arrested Jennifer Darnell, passing a check at Kinkos." I don't understand how they were getting away with it. Sometimes, they used the wrong social security number, several numbers and they used my name on 3 or 4 banks." Even though she cancelled her bank account within 24 hours, Thompson is the one who's paying, who still has creditors calling her day, night and weekends, who must pay to mail out dozens of affidavits, who gets hassled when she needs to make a purchase. "Now, when I have to buy something with a check, it's a 20 minute wait just to leave the store."

Here are some things you can do to protect yourself, don't have your social security number on your driver's license, don't order checks through the mail, instead pick them up at the bank, always take your paid bills to a post office, don't leave them for the letter carrier to get and check your credit report once a year. None of which helps Thompson as she's been forced to file for bankruptcy and will likely deal with this frustration for months to come. "I just wish this was over, I would like her prosecuted for all it's cost me." Court records show Jennifer Darnell has been arrested for this type of crime before. But, you don't have to steal to commit identity theft; you can buy social security numbers off the Internet for $39.95. Congress may soon pass a law to make that illegal.

There's a website that might help victims of identity theft. It's www.privacyrights.org.