The Victim Experience
The following stories illustrate some of the experiences of victims of identity theft and the victim service providers who attempt to help them.
Case 1: Standing Up to Family
One victim was forced to make a painful decision when her younger sister informed her that she had been stopped by Atlanta police after running a stop sign. As the younger sister was driving with a suspended license and risked being arrested on the spot, she lied and gave the officer the victim’s name, address, and other personal information instead of her own. The sister also expected the victim to plead guilty to the charges and pay the fine for the moving violation, an infraction which would mar her otherwise clean driving record and most likely double her insurance premiums.
The victim’s case was referred to Atlanta Victim Assistance, Inc., which often handles similar cases of identity theft involving family members who don’t think twice about using a relative’s identity to avoid criminal charges or to open accounts with utility companies.
With assistance from AVA, the victim was able to prove that the signature on the traffic ticket did not match her own, testify in court that she had been wrongly charged, and had charges against her dismissed. Her sister was sentenced to 21 days in jail.
Case 2: Fraudulent Company Costs Victims Their Homes
Some identity theft and fraud cases involve large victim populations. In one such case, a group of individuals formed a company created specifically to defraud victims. The company preyed on home owners who had some equity in their home. The victims signed paperwork to have loans drawn on the equity in their homes. Then, the fraudulent company forged documents and brought in straw buyers, and then sold the victims’ homes out from under them. Victims only found out about the loss when foreclosure notices came to their addresses in other people’s names. Since their names were no longer on their homes because deeds had been forged removing them from the property, they were unable to take any actions to save their property or the equity in their homes. The victims have now lost their homes and all equity in them.
The Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, Inc. assisted one of the victims in federal court. The center requested restitution for her losses and the ability to submit a victim impact statement. Staff from the center also attended all sentencing hearings with the victim.