Intersections’ Consumer Security Adviser Neal O’Farrell joins us again today with the second in a series of current security threats.
Tampa Bay Online recently ran a story on what could be a growing problem of identity confusion, a case where a victim is treated like a criminal because the real criminal happens to have the same name, date of birth, and even Social Security number. While there are not too many documented cases, it could be a growing problem simply because of the number of errors contained in public databases that result in inaccurate information.
In this case, a resident of Florida named Fabian Lopez has spent years trying to convince anyone who would listen that he's not the same person as Fabian Lopez with the same date of birth, but a resident of New Jersey.
According to New Jersey court records, Fabian has an extensive criminal history, including a 1998 charge of lewdness, charges of criminal sexual contact and burglary, failure to comply with conditions of bail, and failure to appear in court.
And it's that record that seems to have hijacked the life of the victim, including a very public arrest by law enforcement. “This is worse than identity theft,” Lopez said in an interview with Tampa Bay Online. “It’s not that they stole my identity – they’re giving me an identity that’s not mine.” And because of the confusion, the victim in Florida has been unable to obtain a driver's license. This is especially tough because the victim drives a cab for a living.
In cases like this there's very little that can be done for the victim. This is not a case of identity theft, so the victim can't benefit from all the laws and services that are in place to protect victims. If there are errors in a database that incorrectly match a date of birth, Social Security number, or address, these can be fixed, but it's rarely easy.
But there's little recourse if the records are accurate. The victim is left with a lifetime of groundhog days, constantly going through the same routine to explain they're not who people think they are. Even if they're trying to explain it from a jail cell.