Thursday, March 10, 2011
7 News Investigations: Filing Frustration
A lot of us are getting our tax returns back and going on a shopping spree, but for others, it's a never-ending headache. The nightteam's Patrick Fraser has the exclusive investigation, "Filing Frustration."
WSVN -- Nobody can be exactly like you, but a lot of people want to pretend to be you
Adniel Charlot: "Not only did they get my social right, they got my date of birth right, they got all my personal information correct."
Someone says they are Adneil someone is pretending to be Genesis.
Genesis Yeber: "The next day my accountant called me to let me know that somebody had claimed my taxes."
Someone is claiming to be Yesenia.
Yesenia Borate: "This is happening to me that they stole my social or somebody used my social."
Someone is using her social security number and date of birth. Someone has Julie's numbers and has stolen her identity.
Julie: "It's infuriating, frustrating and it's crazy."
It's crazy and it's common, we have gotten hundreds of emails and calls this year from victims, and no wonder the worst state in the country for identity theft is Florida.
Mike Prusinski: "The fastest growing crime in america and to put it in a different perspective right now, you are eight times more likely to have your identity stolen than to have your car stolen."
And it's even worse than we know because many people don't find out their identity has been stolen till they try to file their tax returns online or with their accountant.
Jeffrey Charlot: "I left the office and she gave me a call back and told me that the IRS sent it back because someone already filed with my my social."
Patrick Fraser: "Where are the crooks getting all this information from? The internet, from public records like divorce documents or mortgages that list all your information from websites you use from businesses you give your social security number to even from your school.
Mike Prusinski: "Criminals are smart enough to know that and so they are out there targeting universities. They are targeting college aged students."
These women all go to the same school. It's likely someone hacked into the schools computers to steal their identities and several other classmates.
Yesenia Borroto: "Sooner there were 15 or 16 of us from the same class that had the same thing going on."
And it's simple to steal identities. For example, if you download music from a website, a computer hacker can use you to get to all your friends or co-workers.
Mike Prusinski: "Because you could have somebody here at the station sitting at their desk listening to music while they are working away thru one of these programs. Now they have just opened up your entire network to the exact same thing."
Prusinski works for Lifelock, which monitors confidential information on the internet and protects its customers from becoming victims.
But the crooks realize some adults monitor their credit to protect themselves, which is why the crooks are now going after children. When they hit Shakeshia, they also took her kids information.
Shakeshia Nickles: "My children haven't even started a life yet and they've ruined it. They've ruined it already."
The crooks find ways to tap into elementary schools and doctors offices to take children's social security numbers. In many cases no-one even knows it has been done.
Mike Prusinski: "If the criminal gets the right one, they could use it for up to 12 to 14 years because as parents we are not checking to see if our child has a credit history."
Lifelock officials advise parents to not only check their credit reports, but make sure their children's social security numbers are not stolen.
Lifelock is also meeting with law enforcement on this day with Miami Police to share information to help track down the identity thieves, but Prusinski says it's tough to stop them.
Mike Prusinski: "And even if they catch them most of the time a first time offender gets probation."
It has become the fastest growing crime because law enforcement doesn't have the manpower to track down identity thieves. Adneil found that out when he went to North Miami Beach to report that a crook stole his identity.
Adniel Charlot: "I brought it to the police station and the police told me that it was too big for them. I went to the FBI the FBI told me it was too small for them because it just happened to one person, so now I don't know what to do."
Not easy to know your identity has been stolen, hard to catch the criminals and extremely difficult to clear up the mess.
Adniel Charlot: "Now I have to keep monitoring."
Julie: "It's life long."
Shakeshia: "I'm running around now trying to clear my life back up it's a mess."
An identity thief can't be exactly like you, but they are getting rich stealing from you.