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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

Burke says he appeared as an expert witness on ID theft in a case where a woman was arrested after her wallet was stolen. The thief made some fraudulent purchases, for which the woman was charged even though she'd reported the crime. Eventually the charges were dropped, but not until the victim had been processed through the criminal justice system as the perpetrator. Burke says that white-collar crime ranks at the bottom of most agencies' "to do" lists.

Plagued with manpower and money shortages, law enforcement is forced to prioritize their investigations. The most violent cases and the ones with the most victims get the official gravy. After all, what chance does a small town police department really have when it comes to hunting down a Russian identity-theft ring operating half a world away? And even for crimes committed by small-time thieves, the lines of jurisdiction are often blurred.

"I'm not a fan of big government, but maybe centralization is needed here since ID theft isn't localized, and most police agencies are fairly small," Burke points out.

Information breach
Wisconsin resident Mick Hager says when an employee at the company where he works illegally tapped into other employees' personal information, police told the company to keep it a secret. As a result, Hager's personal information was in the hands of the perpetrator for about three months without him knowing it.

Hager says he understands that police wanted to nail the culprit, but what he and the other 700 employees whose personal information was compromised didn't get was why they were left at risk while the investigation was ongoing.

"I did talk to the police and they referred me back to the organization (for which he worked) and when I talked to the organization, they referred me to the police," Hager says.

To add insult to injury, police told him that he had no real complaint because although the thief was illegally in possession of his personal information, the person never used it to commit a crime.

"Excuse me, but this person stole something and that isn't a crime? Do you have to wait until they pull the trigger?" Hager asks.

A time and energy drain
Hager's experience mirrors that of Oregon resident Laura Peterson. Peterson, who founded a nonprofit organization (handstohearts.org), was startled one day to receive a call from American Express confirming that she'd applied for a corporate gold card when she had not. The company confirmed that Peterson's name and Social Security number had been used.

"They refused to give me a copy of the application without a police report, which is a Catch-22, as I cannot file a police report without the fraudulent application," says Peterson.

-- Posted: May 27, 2008
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