The Atlanta-Journal Constitution newspaper reported in an August 8 news story that a, "stolen wallet led to a Cobb County man's being jailed for a crime he didn't commit." The news story quoted Chamblee Police Chief Marc Johnson as saying, "the worst example of what can happen with identity theft."
The ID-theft victim was Andrew Garrett, a 26-year-old Kennesaw State University student. The police arrested Garret at his parents' home and charged him with auto theft. Even though the arrest warrant described Garrett as African-American, the police arrested Garret, who is Caucasian, anyway. Garrett was taken to DeKalb County jail and was unable to post bail because auto theft is a felony warrant. According to the newspaper report:
"Unbeknown to Chamblee police, Andrew Garrett's wallet had been stolen earlier in the year. And when a woman reported that her son's friend had stolen her rental car, she gave police the ID information that her son's friend had given her — Garrett's name, license number and address."
The charges were dismissed after a police investigator took Garrett's booking photo to the woman, who told him that Garrett wasn't the car thief.
What to make of this? I see several implications:
- This is a good example of how criminals can use stolen identities during a crime for non-financial purposes. Not all identity theft includes breaking into financial accounts to steal money.
- Don't blame the police for arresting Garret. They acted according to a judge's directions.
- Garrett was lucky. Even though his situation was very scary, it was resolved fairly quickly. And it happened in the USA. The same situation in another country where distance, language, the availability of witnesses, and local laws are different could have resulted with a longer jail time and an extended nightmare.
- This story is an excellent example of how the Credit Freeze, Fraud Alert, and mandatory data breach notification laws cannot protect consumers from certain types of identity theft. Hence, it is imperative for companies and government agencies to prevent data breaches in the first place by using current and effective data security methods to protect the sensitive data of employees, former employees, and customers.
- It is important for ID-theft victims to complete a police report when your identity is stolen.
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