Skip to comments.Investigators say ID theft rising among common Hispanic names
Posted on 12/07/2003 4:26:23 PM PST by yonif
ATLANTA - Adriana Sanchez was stunned when the credit report for her new car loan came back showing several open accounts that had been turned over to collections agencies.
Sanchez, who had passed a credit history check to get hired as a Los Angeles police officer, began investigating and stumbled onto an unwanted surprise: Someone living in the Atlanta area with almost the same name had stolen her identity and run up $70,000 in debt.
"Everything was compromised, from my date of birth and my mother's maiden name," she said in a telephone interview. "You feel like you're being violated. ... She even had my mom's address."
The evidence is anecdotal, but some law enforcement investigators around the country say they are seeing more cases of ID theft in which criminals with common Hispanic names rip off the identities of other, unsuspecting Hispanics with the same name.
More often, they say, the purpose is not just to obtain Social Security numbers for employment purposes, but to steal credit cards, open lines of credit, even get car and home loans.
"I've seen it where somebody connected with one of the credit bureaus will look up a name and then get information on, say, 10 people with the name Juan Perez," said Los Angeles police Detective Lyle Barnes. "Then they'll sell it to somebody who will use the stolen IDs in stores."
Naomi Lefkovitz, an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission, which tracks identity theft nationally, said the agency does not compile ID theft data based on the ethnicity of the criminal. However, Lefkovitz said it is not uncommon to see cases in which persons with common or similar names steal others' identity.
Those who steal or buy stolen personal information of others of the same name - including Social Security numbers, credit card information and other financial information - are particularly hard to catch, investigators say.
Many are never caught. And typically these crimes go unnoticed, and uninvestigated, for months after the crooks have struck. The crime often comes to light when the victim is contacted by the Internal Revenue Service about unpaid taxes or by police for crimes committed in the victim's name.
A police officer savvy with computers and the Internet, Sanchez located the addresses of the Georgia accounts opened in her name to determine which police departments to call for help.
Sanchez's research helped lead Gwinnett County investigators to 33-year-old Adriana Sanchez-Palacios of Sugar Hill, who was charged in September with identity theft and fraud.
Sometimes the IDs are ripped off from the Internet. Sometimes, they are physically stolen.
Jay Foley is co-executive director of a San Diego nonprofit advocacy group, Identity Theft Resource Center. He said there are at least two current cases in Southern California in which thieves stole computers from an office and took them across the border to Mexico.
Once in Mexico, the thieves took all the Hispanic names out of the computer and sold the personal information to Mexican nationals, who in turn used the data to create IDs for crossing the border into the United States.
Barnes, the Los Angeles police detective, said that a little more than a year ago he started to see an uptick in the trend of Hispanic-on-Hispanic ID thefts for the purpose of stealing credit cards and opening bogus lines of credit.
He attributed the increase to thieves who branched out from other crime to the white-collar arena. "The criminal has probably already been a criminal ... and now this is an easier way for him to make money," he said.
The trend, as with other ID theft crimes involving undocumented residents, has other implications in an era of heightened awareness about the potential for terrorism.
Special Agent Malcolm Wiley, spokesman for the Atlanta office of the Secret Service, said during ID theft investigations involving illegal immigrants, information is run through national crime databases to determine if more is at stake than just fake IDs.
"Since Sept. 11, and even before then, we try to look at it from all aspects," he said.
Sgt. Tim Crews, chief of the Orlando, Fla., police department's economic crimes unit, said the theft of identities of Hispanics with common Latino last names has always been part of the larger pool of ID theft.
The crime is easier to carry out for the criminal who already has a legitimate driver's license, Crews said. In that case, when the thief goes to buy a car using someone else's identity, for example, an unsuspecting salesperson might feel more secure selling to the criminal.
"They might feel confident because they've looked at a driver's license number that already has the name on it," he said.
Crews said the victims are not always wealthy Hispanics with a long history of good credit. He has seen cases in which a Hispanic couple of modest means labored for years and saved their money only to realize that their IDs have been stolen and their credit ruined when they applied for their first mortgage.
"They finally are making a decent wage and are on their feet and, low and behold, somebody in Texas has stolen their ID," Crews said.
Officials say the theft of personal information that ends up in the hands of undocumented workers has been a facet of identity theft in the United States for years. The demand for Social Security numbers continues to be at a premium among illegal immigrants who use the numbers to get employment.
In the past, investigators say, those cases were more common than a case like Sanchez's, in which the thief used her victim's ID to run up thousands of dollars in debt.
Then there is the case of Carlos.
Foley, with the Identity Theft Resource Center, said Carlos is a resident in Southern California. He did not reveal Carlos' last name because the case is ongoing. Carlos, he said, has racked up $68,000 in debt, owes $4,700 in child support and has three warrants out for his arrest for failing to appear at DUI hearings.
Carlos is 6 years old.
"Carlos' father is divorced and is no longer allowed to remain in the U.S.," Foley said. "He's been living and working as his son for four-and-a-half years."
On the Web:
Identity Theft Resource Center: http://www.idtheftcenter.org
Talk about identity theft
BILL RICHARDSON This is what Bill Richardson said in 1995 when he was in the U.S. House of Representatives: "These are changing political times where our basic and programs are being attacked. Illegal and legal immigration unfairly attacked. We have to band together and that means Latinos in Florida, Cuban-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, South Americans - we have to network better - we have to be more politically minded - we have to put aside party and think of ourselves as Latinos, as Hispanics, more than we have in the past." An audio tape of these remarks can be obtained from CCIR
Been there.. and you are right, the day will come and unfortunately it's coming on very fast, that people will be shocked at what happens in the US. Californians are voting ..with their feet.. leaving the sinking ship.. but what happens when there is no where left to run?
I have been bringing this up in my private life over and over again. Where are we going to go now? No place to go...most of the rest of the world absolutely hates the United States.
Pull the trigger?
That's what it will come to if the invasion of California continues. People are getting mad!
Yep, and this new Prop 187 is gonna rile up all the "immigrant" activists, too. Then next year we'll have another driver's license bill from Cedillo, so things will be interesting.
In the meantime, I'm just sittin' here and eatin' some Amaretto cheese cake. Yum!
I'll be over! Have you tried the pumpkin cheese cake from Costco? Not too B.A.D.!
Nope, but I'm working my way through as many flavors as possible!
Ironically, it was the former police chief of L.A. (Daryl Gates) who requested Special Order 40, which made this place a sanctuary city.
Hey, I did that! It is probably the best think I ever did. The illegal alien mess used to torment me daily....now I barely think about it, because I have moved back to America. It's great!
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