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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

The Gonzalezes were instructed to call the FBI's local field office, which they did. The FBI referred them to the State Bureau of Investigation, which offered no help at all.

They next tried the IRS, since they were still being held liable for the taxes of the person who stole Jaime's Social Security number. That agency sent them to the FBI office that had already referred them elsewhere. Weeks later, an FBI supervisor had one of his agents contact the Duplin County Sheriff's Department to advise them it was, indeed, their case.

When Nicole Gonzalez followed up with the Duplin County department, she was told they needed to file a report with the Faison (N.C.) Police Department, which consisted of a couple of full-time officers. The chief told the couple he would be happy to help them. But when police showed up at the pickle factory where the man was working, he'd fled.

In the meantime, a taxpayer's advocate appointed on their behalf began working to get their tax situation under control. Fast forward to 2006. Collection agencies began plaguing the couple, trying to collect on debts created by the false Jaime Gonzalez.

A friendly county deputy told Nicole that a relatively new statute in North Carolina required the agency with jurisdiction over the victim's residence to take a report. She contacted the police in Jacksonville, N.C., where they lived, and was told to come in. After filing the report, a detective made contact. He informed them there was nothing he could do to help them.

Then they received a bill for back taxes from the IRS for $33,000. The Gonzalezes tried to track the man down, only to find that they were not allowed to view official records or bills contracted in Jaime's name by the criminal because to do so would violate the criminal's rights.

The couple was stunned. "Everyone is very concerned about this man's rights and we are the bad guys," Nicole Gonzalez says. To date the criminal is still at large and still, to the Gonzalezes' chagrin, using Jaime's identity.

(This story summarizes events, but leaves out some details, such as the couple's attempts to reach their senator, congressmen, state attorney general and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, among others. Their story could fill volumes.)

White-collar crime a low priority
The Gonzalez family's predicament may be more complicated than the usual identity theft case, but the fact is, many individual ID theft victims have trouble finding officials who care. Part of it is a lack of staff to deal with the problem, but Tod Burke, a criminal justice professor at Radford University in Virginia and a former police officer, says it's also due to ignorance.

-- Posted: May 27, 2008
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