ASK THE SHERIFF: Identity theft is not a victimless crime

DEAR SHERIFF: Your officers occasionally arrest persons for identity theft. Some people act as though this is a victimless crime. Can you tell us what victims experience when their identity is stolen?

ANSWER: Yes, I will tell you about Sarah (last name withheld for privacy) who has shared with me her situation. Her case is a criminal case opened in 2007 by local police and federal law enforcement and finally closed in 2010. Here is Sarah’s story in her own words:

“‘If someone wants my identity bad enough there is nothing I can do to stop it’ were the words I spoke for many years and in late 2007 that is exactly what happened. A bank called me early one evening to ask me if I had opened a credit card with them in the last 14 days.

“I told the caller I neither opened nor applied for a credit card with her bank. She then told me I was a victim of identity theft. She strongly suggested I review my credit report immediately and file a criminal case with the local police department.

“After reviewing my credit report, I found several new credit cards with nearly $12,000 of debt, an inquiry for a home loan in California, as well as an address to which I have never lived. My first thought was, now what? I had no idea what life had in store for me during the next couple of years.

“I contacted the police to report the identity theft and was told the case may never get resolved. This was heart breaking to say the least. But I did not give up. After a while the police found the circumstance of the theft made this a federal case.

“I worked with the Inspector General’s Office, spending hundreds of hours on the phone and multiple trips to banks and other agencies providing documentation of my case and verifying my identity. This was an exhausting process and took over a year to fix.

“Credit card transactions were reviewed and the court ordered details on transactions and security video. Finally, the person was found and arrested. The process of numerous court dates began.

“I was extremely emotional to finally see the person responsible for so much time lost in my life. The first time I saw her, she was dressed casually carrying a Coach purse! That purse was more than likely purchased using a credit card opened in my name! I was angry.

“The next time I saw her was during her sentencing. The prosecutor asked if I would speak during the hearing to let the court know what impact this case had on my life. The entire time I was speaking she had her back to me, she didn’t want to look at me.

“This experience made me angry because I worked hard to get where I was in my life. I grew up with my grandparents with little money and became a teen mom at 18. Many people around me thought I would become a stereotype and a young mom on welfare for the rest my life; they did not know I was determined that was not going to happen. I graduated from high school, obtained a college degree and achieved a great career making enough money for a successful life.

“She chose to break the law and take what was not hers. As I write this it brings back angry feelings. She was sentenced to three years in federal prison and served most of it.

“I still say if someone wants my identity bad enough they will get it. But now I regularly review my credit reports and receive alerts informing me of any changes.”

Identity theft is a serious crime that is not victimless. As sheriff, I will do my best to ensure that victims have closure for their incident.

Ask-the-Sheriff a question by emailing Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers at

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