Double Trouble: Being an Identity Theft Victim Can Land You in Jail

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A42KRR Hand on computer keyboard, identity fraud concept. Image shot 2007. Exact date unknown.
Alamy
By Brett Montgomery

When ordinary people become victims of identity theft, the legal repercussions can be enormous. To make matters worse, some victims not only have to deal with financial fraud but also face the risk of being jailed for crimes they didn't commit.

Identity thieves may perpetrate crimes while masking their true identities with the names of their victims, which may result in the wrong person becoming imprisoned. Kissimmee, Fla., resident Erie Salgado has been worried about being arrested ever since his identity was taken a decade ago in Puerto Rico, ABC affiliate WFTV in Orlando reported.

Since then, Salgado has been suspected of being a Massachusetts-based cocaine dealer and also went to jail for the identity mix-up last fall. After Salgado spent days trying to convince law enforce authorities they had the wrong guy before he was released from jail, Sheriff Wayne Ivey gave Salgado an apology. Ivey said that the phenomenon of identity theft victims spending time in jail for crimes caused by someone else is occurring more frequently.

In 2013, 13.1 million Americans became victims of identity theft, according to a recent Javelin report.

Financial, Legal Impacts

After Salgado's identity theft incident, his wife, Betsy, said the criminal actions of the identity thief has resulted in her husband's credit being damaged, which is a common effect of having unauthorized persons open new lines of credit without victims' permission.

"Victims who had personal information used to open a new account or for other fraudulent purposes were more likely than victims of existing account fraud to experience financial, credit and relationship problems and severe emotional distress," the Bureau of Justice Statistics said in a recent report.

When victims try to clear their names, they can also run into obstacles, which can result in financial costs to the victims that may take time to resolve. The bureau said more than half of identity theft victims were able to prevent problems from escalating in a day or less. But some victims who had their personal information stolen wait much longer than that. The bureau survey showed 29 percent of victims waited a month or more before they were able to resolve issues concerning their identity. For Salgado, his problem has continued for almost a decade -- and counting.

In acknowledging the growing problem of identity theft and in an effort to help victims, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement created a program to reinforce victims' claims of stolen identities if asked by police officers.

If you're worried about becoming a victim of identity theft, you should monitor your bank and credit card accounts for any suspicious charges. Also, you can use a free tool like the Credit Report Card to monitor your credit scores every month. Any unexpected change in your credit score could signal identity theft and you should pull your credit reports to make sure you haven't become a victim.

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sharishira

I know a very simple solution to preventng identity theft with credit card and debit card. Show your photo with each and every credit card and debit card transaction to make sure it is you. Demand stores and all companies make it shown to match up.

February 18 2014 at 11:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tyler

Getting a lot easier to skim your data with 'Tap & Go' RFID enabled credit cards and NFC enabled smartphones. To find the best way to protect yourself from wireless skimming just google armourcard or go to website http://www.armourcard.com.au

February 18 2014 at 7:14 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
gramargo

A friend had her ID stolen by her ditzy sister, who also took her car (the friend was in poor health after a stroke and couldn't drive), was caught for drunk driving, using drugs and other things in another county. She said she was the friend, who was then arrested on a warrant and taken to jail. She had proof that she was never in that county, luckily, and that she was at home at the time of the offenses, but it took time to straighten it all out.

February 18 2014 at 3:14 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
razov

The penalties for identity theft should be on par with cyber terrorism. A stiff prision term and triple penalties for restitution. If the criminals are abroad, the US needs to use its extradition treaties to bring the scumbags back for prosecution.
But, until one of our Congressmen become a victim and have their credit ruined, I suspect the law won't change.

February 18 2014 at 2:38 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to razov's comment
hislonv

The penalty for a conviction should be the same as treason - DEATH. Convicted, taken back to the jail holding cell and shot. It may not follow the US rights of criminals way of treating criminals, but the lawful citizens need to get the upper hand here and stop all the violence and identity theft problems quickly. A slap on the wrist obviously isn't working.

February 19 2014 at 2:23 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply