Consumer Watch: Criminal Identity Theft

CBS – Kirstin Cole
4/26/2007 – CBS) NEW YORK Identity theft is America’s fastest-growing crime. Last year alone, nearly 10 million people lost roughly $5 billion to it. And as CBS 2’s Kirstin Cole tells us, the latest form of this fraud, will not only hurt your credit record but can get you a criminal record.

She joins us now with a warning in tonight’s Consumer Watch. New mom, Kristin Cavalli, was arrested at 3:00 AM, on January 8, with the police charging her with drug possession.

“I was seven months pregnant at the time,” said Kristin. Yet she and her parent’s say she was at home, sound asleep. So how could this be? Kristin is the victim of criminal identity theft.

Her friend gave Kristin’s personal information to trick cops when she was arrested for drug possession. “She used my social security number, my driver’s license number, gave my date of birth,” explained Kristin.

Police wouldn’t compare fingerprints for Kristin’s impersonator, never demanded ID to prove who she was. Authorities say criminals typically use a brother, cousin or in Kristin’s case, a friend’s name.

And while victims of identity theft are often left to clean up their credit reports, criminal id theft victims find clearing their good name can be an impossible process.

“In addition to maybe not being able to get credit or a job, worst case is an arrest warrant is issued in your name because the thief didn’t show up for a court date,” said Tom Cohn with the Federal Trade Commission.

Kristin’s friend, who is currently behind bars, has acknowledged stealing her identity and even wrote her a letter of apology. But the pair are now forever linked in the legal system.

“Basically it says you get arrested, give someone else’s name,” said Kristin’s mom, Jayn. She says she’s spent hours calling and writing to clear this bureaucratic mess, finally resorting to shelling out big bucks for an attorney. And she’s outraged her daughter could still be picked up by police for crimes she didn’t commit.

Kristin’s friend refused an on camera interview with us. But the Chief Prosecutor told us the charges are no longer on Kristin’s record. But Kristin’s name will always remain on her friend’s record as an alias.

That means if the friend fails to show for a court appearance and a warrant is issued, Kristin could be brought in for fingerprinting. The Cavalli’s have now filed criminal charges of identity theft against the friend.

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