In Hopatcong, New Jersey, police recently made a startling discovery. According to a report by NJ.com, a man has been arrested for stealing another person’s identity — after using this information for 20 years.
The accused man, Jorge Lopez, allegedly used a stolen Social Security number to buy a house in Hopatcong almost two decades ago. He is also accused of using this number to get a job with the Newark school district.
In their report, Hopatcong Police say that this theft “ruined the victim’s life.” The news source added that the victim, who lives in Florida, was finally alerted to the problem when he attempted to buy a home. He was informed that he already owned one — more than 1,000 miles away.
The victim was forced to do much of the research on Lopez himself before police finally got involved. Even so, Lopez is not being charged with identity theft, as the statute of limitations on this crime has run out. He will instead be charged with credit card theft, as he allegedly obtained a card with the victim’s information.
Identity theft can have an extremely deleterious effect on a person’s personal and financial life, especially if it is allowed to continue for years after the fact. If you suspect that your critical personal information has been compromised, there are several important steps that you can take to mitigate the damage and hopefully resolve the problem as soon as possible.
- Put fraud alerts on all of your credit reports. This requires that creditors take additional steps to verify your identity before extending credit. You can also go one step further and place a security credit freeze on all of your credit reports. This will prevent any applications from being processed unless you apply for a temporary thawing of your file.
- Next, contact your bank and credit card companies and cancel and replace all accounts. This will help prevent thieves from quickly ruining your credit or draining your savings. Also be sure to contact the Social Security Administration if you have a reason to believe that your number has been compromised. Identity thieves can use these to claim your tax returns, get jobs or even buy houses in your name.
- Finally, contact the police and file a report. This will not only alert local law enforcement to the possibility of an identity thief in their midst, but will also make it easier for you to work with credit reporting agencies as you try to reclaim your identity and fix any damage.
Ideally, ID theft should be caught as soon as possible to prevent the damage from worsening. A credit monitoring service can alert you if certain activity that could be indicative of fraud has appeared on your account. Once alerted, you can proceed with the aforementioned steps and resolve the issue before the consequences grow.