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Criminal Identity Theft

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Criminal Identity Theft
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Few people consider the deeper-reaching parts of identity theft. Medical identity theft is terrifying, because if your doctor makes decisions based on false information in a medical file, it can have deadly results. But if an identity thief is caught in an unrelated crime, more often than not they will give your information to law enforcement. Once they are out on bail, they disappear behind the next person's identity.

The criminal fails to appear for the hearing, which results in a bench warrant in the victim's name. The victim, however, may not find out about the warrant until they are (for example) stopped for speeding, or a busted tail light. Once the officer runs the driver's license, the warrant information pops up, and the nightmare begins.

When this has happened to you, your first instinct may be to call your identity theft service (assuming you have one.) Since most identity theft programs are still focused on financial identity theft, you may find there is little they can do to help.

This presents a completely new set of problems for a victim. Most law enforcement agents have heard the objection "It wasn't me!" several times during their career, so they can be less than sympathetic. States have started putting laws in place to help victims, but the process can still be confusing and time-consuming. Even after LEA's are aware of your situation, though, things are seldom smooth.

The Curious Case of Kevin Woehner

Kevin Woehner knew he was a victim of identity theft for years. The criminal had gotten loans for vehicles in Woehner's name, leaving him with the collection headaches. He had gone to the Dade County police several times. He had gotten little help, even though he knew the name of the identity thief – Shawn Labeet. When he finally managed to get his complaint taken and a report filed, his photo was taken with the report, as a means of positive identification.

Labeet was not only an identity thief; he was also involved in gang activity. When he was stopped by police (in a car registered in Woehner's name) he opened fire on the police, injuring 3 and killing one. Within an hour Woehner became national news, and his photo taken for the identity theft report was seen broadcast as the person the police were searching for. Police were very clear on the news, "…this is not a person of interest, this is the suspect in the shootings…."

Woehner called the police as soon as he heard about the shooting to clear things up. Patrols were dispatched to his residence, where he was arrested under a show of force while his family watched, terrified. Although everything was eventually ironed out, the experience is probably not one he cares to repeat.

Migrating Data

Once you're in "The System" it's not easy to get out. Victims of criminal identity theft may find it next to impossible to get their false criminal record cleared up. James Farr in Indiana has dealt with this problem for years, while Larry Joe Hummel moves through the Florida criminal system. Farr has been denied employment due to his criminal past (and present), even after getting a judgment against Hummel for identity theft (which also shows the conviction in the name of James Farr.) Florida has decided "…while it's not best for him, it's best for the general public…."

Criminal databases "talk" with each other, sharing information so other agencies can access it easily. So even if we assume a victim manages to get their information cleared from a local city's police database, it may show back up the next time the city updates their information with a county or state database. In the mean time, they may be arrested again and again over the same warrant.

Unfortunately, there's little anyone can do to prevent this form of identity theft. One way this could come about is a stolen wallet or purse. After going through the headache of replacing your driver's license, you will often find the license number is the same as the stolen one.

And there are very few identity thieves that don't intend on breaking a few laws.

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