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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Identity theft victim charged with crime

Imagine finding out there is an arrest warrant with your name on it.  As if that's not bad enough, imagine that your name is on the arrest warrant not because you committed a crime but because you are a victim of one.

That's exactly what happened to Anna Greer of Bakersfield, California.  Apparently, a woman committed a crime and, when caught by the police, identified herself using Anna Greer's name and other personal identifiers.  Even though police were able to later determine that the suspect was not really Anna Greer, Anna Greer's name is now listed as an alias for the criminal in criminal databases.

So, even though the charges against "Greer" were dismissed, the felony charges still show up when a search of her name is performed.  In fact, that's how Greer learned of the warrant out for "her" arrest.  The online court records for Kern County, California show Greer as having once been charged for receiving stolen property and forgery.  Even though both charges were dismissed, both still make it look like Greer was at least charged with both crimes, even though it was in reality her identity thief that was charged.

After much hard work on her part, Greer's name is still tied to both crimes, but she now has a letter from the judge that states she is a victim of identity theft and "was not the person suspected of and charged with check forgery and receiving stolen property."  But online viewers do not see this letter.

This is a common problem when criminals are caught and give someone else's name or SSN to the police.  I once had a person come to me in Mississippi with this problem and, despite the sheriff that arrested the real perp writing letters on his behalf, even I could not get his name off the criminal database for Mississippi, since the criminal did give his name as an alias.

This is a huge problem, particularly when seeking employment.  When asked whether you have ever been charged with a felony, how do you respond?  If you respond truthfully by indicating no, then a search of the public records by your potential employer may make you appear to be a liar and criminal.  But explaining the error just opens up a whole can of worms for you and your potential employer.

Maybe Congress will one day enact some legislation to fix this problem.

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