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OVERVIEW
Identity stolen? File a report
It can be frustrating when understaffed or indifferent police departments refuse to take the report.
Protecting your identity

File a police report? ID theft victims do try

Conventional wisdom tells victims of identity fraud to report the crime to authorities. Oftentimes they discover that their police departments won't take a report.

But most victims don't bother filing a report. In 2005, only a little more than a quarter -- 26 percent -- actually did so, according to a Federal Trade Commission survey. Among those, 19 percent said the police failed to take a report. Another 27 percent said police did take a report, but victims didn't receive a copy.

Reporting an ID theft doesn't mean it's going to be officially investigated. Many victims say that even when they follow the recommendations posted on the Web sites of their attorneys general or local law enforcement, not much happens.

Police apathy
Some ID fraud victims discover that the road to justice leads to several dead ends.
Meager support for victims
1. Anatomy of a nightmare
2. White-collar crime a low priority
3. Information breach
4. A time and energy drain
5. File a police report

Anatomy of a nightmare
Take the case of North Carolina residents Jaime and Nicole Gonzalez, who found themselves enmeshed in an endless bureaucracy when Jaime, a former Marine who now serves in the National Guard, lost his wallet while visiting family in Texas nearly a decade ago.

In the spring of 2000, Jaime Gonzalez applied for a driver's license in North Carolina. At that time he was questioned in connection with outstanding traffic tickets in states where he'd never been. A few weeks later, the IRS contacted him about back taxes owed for the year 1998.

The Gonzalezes tried to report the matter to their local police department, but were told they needed to report the ID theft in Texas, even though the perpetrator and the victim lived in North Carolina.

Every year, starting in 1998 and extending through 2006, the Gonzalezes received a tax notice claiming they owed unpaid taxes on the salary earned by the ID thief who was using Jaime's Social Security number. In 2003, the couple again spoke to their local police and were told the case was not within the department's jurisdiction. The officer instructed them to file a report where the perpetrator lived.

Jaime and Nicole Gonzalez traced the man to a small town bordering two North Carolina counties -- Wayne and Duplin. They knew from the man's IRS history that he worked at a local pickle factory. Although the criminal had an outstanding warrant in Wayne County and the couple had the man's home and work addresses, they couldn't interest Wayne County authorities in taking the report. At the Duplin County Sheriff's Department they were told the county lacked jurisdiction.

-- Posted: May 27, 2008
 
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