One Woman Fights Identity Theft - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

01/25/04

One Woman Fights Identity Theft

It's one of the fastest growing crimes in the U.S., and you may be a victim and not even know it. It's identity theft. According to the Federal Trade Commission, reported crimes have increased more than 30 percent since 2002. While many people don't think they could ever become a victim, more than 7 million people in the U.S. were victims last year--including many South Mississippians. One of those victims is fighting back.

Pat Haynes said it all started with a simple phone call.

"I received a phone call one Saturday morning from a collection agency inquiring about a catalog deal that I had. And I told him it wasn't me," she said.

Haynes knew she never spent the money charged to that account.

She said, "upon further investigation, [I] found out it was going to a different address. My name, my social security number going to another address."

The address was only miles away from her house. Haynes didn't know what to do, so she got her credit reports to try to find any other illegal charges.

"Upon going through the credit reports, I found another fraud--another credit card," she said.

The District Attorney in Pascagoula said cases like this are far from uncommon. He said they have several cases that they are working on right now, but the only way to catch the criminals is to call the police immediately if you suspect someone is stealing your identity.

District Attorney Tony Lawrence said, "That way, the police conduct an investigation, and it will be brought to me eventually, and we'll be able to conduct an investigation through the Grand Jury and make sure the person is charged with the crime."

Haynes is currently in proceedings to get the identity thief arrested since she's found numerous illegal accounts under her name.

The Grand Jury will meet this week to decide when to arrest the person who stole her identity.

Pascagoula Police say the fine for identity theft is fairly steep. For the first offense, anything other over $1,000 is a felony and the punishment is a fine up to $5,000, five years in jail, or both. On the second offense, the punishment is $10-thousand dollars, 10 years in jail, or both.

Claire Nelson

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