I said that I would share with you, from time to time, the stories of victims of identity theft. Some of these stories are tragic, some illustrate the dangers of identity theft and some are simply funny. Here are three.
Brianna Priddy, a waitress at a Lakewood, Colo., Applebee's, had her purse stolen. Among the valuables she lost was her driver's license. In the following days someone used her identity to write hundreds of dollars in bad checks. She closed the account and was working with the fraud division of her bank.
About two weeks later, she was at work and asked for an ID from a young woman who wanted a drink with her dinner. The woman handed her a driver's license and Brianna Priddy was surprised when she read the name on the license — it read: Brianna Priddy.
"But I didn't say anything," she told a local television station. "I handed it back to her and said 'Sure, I'll be right back with your margarita.' [I] went straight to the phone, called the cops."
They came quickly and arrested the 26-year-old suspect. According to the Associated Press, she faces identity theft and criminal impersonation charges and was found with drugs in her possession.
We know how easy it seemed to be for an individual to become an identity theft victim. But how about a town? Just ask the town fathers of Henning, Tennessee, population about 1,000.
In February, the town treasurer wrote a check for $187.65, an annual newspaper subscription payment. It was sent off to the newspaper's payment office is in Dallas, but somewhere along the way someone apparently intercepted the check, altered the dollar amount to $25,500 and altered the payee to "Cheveze Pippins." The check was then deposited into a Houston bank account. The altered check cleared the town's bank. Then, several months later, unsuccessful attempts were made to transact two counterfeit checks in the town's name at banks in Louisiana and Texas.
Of the altered check, Henning Mayor Michael Bursey said "No one notified us or verified with us whether the check was valid. It was also written to an individual into his apartment. The town would never do that."
The bank countered that the town should have stopped payment on the original check once it was clear it had not been received.
So while the whole thing gets sorted out, Henning is out $25,500. "You can see the holes in the streets and everything else around here," said a local business owner. "Just look around at what $25,000 would do."
Many local newspapers and blogs often reprint the daily and weekly crime reports issued by local police. One such is in Elmhurst, Illinois, a pleasant Chicago suburb, population about 44,000. Here is one day's report:
A resident of the 900 block of South Hawthorne told police someone used her Chase Bank college checking account without her knowledge between March 14 and 27. The account now has a negative balance of $8,946.75 and has been frozen by Chase.
A resident told police at 7:48 p.m. April 2 that when her accountant attempted to file her federal taxes, a return already had been filed in her name.
Someone purchased a Kia Optima from (local dealer), using a fraudulent identity. The incident was reported at 10:44 a.m. April 3.
Elmhurst police assisted state officials in apprehending (name withheld), after he allegedly arrived at a predetermined location to obtain a bank debit card and PIN number belonging to a victim. At 1:42 p.m. April 3, Elmhurst police pulled (his) vehicle and discovered he also was wanted for failure to appear out of DeKalb County. He was taken to DuPage County Jail.
A resident of the 600 block of Berkley told police someone successfully opened two credit card accounts and attempted to open a third in her name on March 30.
A resident of the 600 block of South Berkley told police someone used his wife's debit card number to make four unauthorized withdrawals totaling $1,109.71 between March 2 and 16. The theft was reported at 8:43 p.m. April 3.
Identity theft is real and it affects real people. The threat is not being overstated, or going away. Be aware and stay vigilant.