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September 18, 2009

Former Chicago Transit Authority employee sentenced for identity theft

Chicago's Miranda Smith was sentenced to four years in prison on September 16, 2009, after pleading guilty to aggravated identity theft.  Smith's job at the Chicago Transit Authority involved taking calls and credit card information to assist customers needing to replenish their CTA fare cards.  With this access, Smith stole the credit card information of thirteen CTA customers and used their credit card information to make purchases from Chicago area department stores. 

Smith was caught when one of her victims reported fraudulent charges on a credit card that had been used to purchase CTA fares.  Fortunately, Smith only had access to credit card numbers of the customers she personally dealt with, rather than the entire customer database which would have allowed for much greater damage.

While Smith was charged with identity theft, the actual crime she committed was account takeover, since she took over the use of an existing account instead of opening an entirely new account.  Both crimes typically fall under the statutes outlawing identity theft but the difference can be important, especially since credit card companies are good about reversing fraudulent charges in an account takeover situation but are typically horrible about removing fraudulently opened accounts from victims' credit reports.

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