Monday, November 12, 2012
Help Me Howard: Identify Theft
If you have not been the victim of identity theft, you may know someone who has had their tax return stolen, a credit card created in your name. That's frustrating, but whats infuriating is knowing who the thief may be and unable to do anything about it, which is why one woman called help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Shamika Freeman is like the majority of South Floridians, doing things the right way.
Shamika Freeman: "I have training over three years worth of training."
So while Shamika works every day as an x-ray technician, there is the minority of South Floridians who work to steal on days that end in y.
Shamika Freeman: "I was filing my taxes for the first time and I was excited to see how much money I was getting back, and then to only find that someone had already filed."
Shamika's identity had been stolen.
Shamika Freeman: "I was like freaking out people were like calm down."
She calmed down till it got worse.
Shamika Freeman: "I got a letter from Direct TV saying thank you for your interest and Direct T, and I'm like I don't have Direct TV."
Fortunately, when her identify was stolen, Shamika had put a fraud alert on her social security number. Meaning she would be notified if the crook was trying to steal more from her. And the crook was working her identity.
Shamika Freeman: "I also see a Chase bank was open too, some accounts and I never had no type of bank account, so that was wasn't me either."
Shamika then started collecting the information that the thief used to try to open accounts and tracked her down.
Shamika Freeman: "I have her exact address. I have a cell phone number and I also have the email. So I have her exact name first and last and everything like date of birth everything."
Proud of herself and excited the crook was going to be arrested, shamika went to the police.
Shamika Freeman: "The first I went to was Hollywood police. It's an portal problem. This is not our problem, this is city of Miami. So then Miami told me oh this is a federal offense. I called FBI of Miami. They told me its City of Miami problems."
Shamika then came to a realization there is a reason so many crooks are stealing the identities of good hardworking people.
Shamika Freeman: "I did all the work. I got all the information right here and nobody want to do nothing."
Well Howard, identity theft is a massive problem but legally what can a victim do?
Howard Finkelstein: "Legally, every law enforcement agency Shamika contacted had the authority to act. The problem, local police prioritize starting with murder rape robbery. The feds want the big fish and so everyone passed the buck. Do they have to investigate? No. Each department gets to choose which cases they go after."
Since the alleged crook had a Miami address, we got in touch with their police department who opened an investigation. Two months later, Waltrina Ferguson was arrested and charged with stealing Shamika's identify.
Ferguson probably knew where to stand for the mugshot. We found she had 15 prior arrests from petty theft to retail theft to grand theft.
She is now awaiting trial for stealing Shamika's identify.
Howard Finkelstein: "Its easy to say the police departments should have done more, but in reality millions of people are the victim of identity and law enforcement doesnt have the resources to go handle all of the cases. The lesson here, be the squeaky wheel."
Shamika, went from a crime victim to helping catching the accused crook. And if she ever gets out of the medical field, she may have a new career option.
Shamika Freeman: "No lie I was thinking about that to be something in the criminal justice field. I was really thinking about it because I'm pretty good."
Patrick Fraser: "A victim that fought back, good for her. Now if you have your identity stolen, first report it to the Federal Trade Commision. Also, contact the credit bureaus and put a fraud alert on your account to help block someone from opening accounts in your name."
There are a lot more pointers at the government website the link is at wsvn.com under Help me Howard
Identified a problem that's stealing your peace of mind? Want to shine a light on them? Contact us, we don't want credit, just want you to cash in.
If your identity is stolen, contact: www.ftc.gov
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: email@example.com (Please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org