ID Thieves Are Hard To Catch

Identity Theft
Identity theft is an exploding problem. Now, simple data, found floating around on the Internet and in trash cans, could lead to a wealth of lost personal information from unsuspecting victims.

In Palmdale, the scam was cell phone fraud. In Palm Springs it was a credit card scheme — a woman used a former neighbor’s identity and went on a shopping spree.

The Los Angeles County Task Force is trying to crack down on ID theft. They closed two cases. But, they know the work is far from over. Only 11 investigators are able to investigate 4,900 cases still open.

"It’s a very easy crime," said Sgt. Bob Berard. "Its an easy crime for anyone to commit if they have a desire to do it."

Part of the problem of fighting against it, say some law enforcement agencies, is credit card companies are rarely willing to prosecute suspects of ID theft.

Berardi believes credit card companies are accomplice to the thieves because they refuse to file charges.

That is not new to Heidi Anderson of San Diego. She tried to put her identity theft nightmare behind her as she prepared for her wedding.

“You think you’re protected, but she had my name, my driver’s license number, and her picture on a fake driver’s license,” said Anderson.

The thief opened 30 fraudulent store credit accounts in Heidi’s name

"Victoria Secret. Gateway. Bank of America. She got ten grand from them," said Anderson. "You’d think they’d want to prosecute, but they don’t care."

If fact, just two companies defrauded by the phony Heidi agreed to file police reports. The rest refused. Anderson said the credit card companies were not much help and claimed that it was not their policy to file reports — they just write it off.

"I was stunned. I just figured people don’t care," said Anderson. "[The credit card companies] sign up anyone. Even if it’s the wrong person. That’s all they care about. Money. The bottom line."

An arrest is imminent in the case of Heidi Anderson’s identity thief, but for every case closed, there are scores of crime underway.

"It's scary. And people should be scared," said Stephen Massey. "And it won’t stop until the right people are held accountable."

Oregon federal prison inmate Stephen Massey has $400,000 in fraud and 800 vicitims on his record. He says the credit card companies need to tighten their screening against people like him.

He warns people to shred every document they have and be careful with handing out social security numbers.

Sometimes that includes family. A case cracked just last month by the special L.A. task Force involved a man who allegedly stole his estranged son’s identity for a credit card scam. It was really easy, investigators said. The son was out of the country at the time — he was on duty in Bosnia with the U.S. Army.