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Howard Ain, Troubleshooter: Identity Theft

Updated: Tuesday, February 25 2014, 09:38 AM EST
CINCINNATI (Howard Ain) -- An elderly man suddenly finds his credit is no good. 

Many people trust their neighbors, but in this case that trust was betrayed-- and one family learned just how easy it can be to end up being a victim of identity theft. "The lady said he couldn't. What do you mean i can't use my card?" asked San Juanita Avina. "She said because it's canceled, it's closed."
 
San Juanita is describing the frustrating scene at her local Wal-mart when her 66-year old father tried to use his credit card. "Why, it's 'maxed out'. I never use my card, how could it be over-maxed?"
 
Turns out her father's identity had been stolen and the card he rarely used had a one thousand dollar balance. Walmart started looking into the problem and said multiple cards had been issued for the account - including one to a daughter, "Maria". "I called them back and said there is no such person as Maria Avina, that is not my name."
 
The family suspected a long-time neighbor was involved and as they talked to postal inspectors, they learned they were right. "She says, in front of me I have another report complaint on the same individual. From then on, we took care of business. She was there for us."
 
"She purposely befriended them, tried to make it look as though she was a caretaker, friend to them, and somebody who was trustworthy," says U.S. Postal Inspector Mary Johnson.
 
Postal inspectors say this is a common scheme for ID thieves. "She did that in order to obtain their identifying information. So she can become an added user on their current cards and to open up new cards. She had utility bills put in their name for her personal house."
 
Authorities arrested the ID thief. "She thought I was going to leave her alone and just let it go by and not take care of it. No, uh-uh. No. You did wrong. You abused my dad and now you're abusing me."
 
Inspectors say we are all vulnerable to identity theft. "It seems to be an ever-evolving crime. There is no set tone of victim right now. It's elderly, children, middle aged, college students, anybody and everybody can be a target of ID theft."

Postal inspectors advise everyone to shred all documents that contain personal information. Also, ask for a free credit report each year and check for any discrepancies. The suspect in this case pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated identity theft and served two years in prison.Howard Ain, Troubleshooter: Identity Theft


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