When identity thieves strike, most people worry about the headache involved in clearing their names, securing their finances, and making sure their credit scores remain unharmed. For most victims, the thought of going to jail is the last thing on their minds, and the thought of being arrested more than once isn’t even on the radar.
But for Gerber Guzman, that scenario is all too real. Since having his identity stolen several years ago, Guzman has now been arrested twice and held for long periods of time—once for over two weeks—due to the mix up. In each case, police eventually realized that the fingerprints didn’t match the person they have warrants for and eventually let Guzman go, but the sad fact is the wheels of justice do turn slowly.
The time it takes to get the match on the fingerprints—which isn’t an instantaneous process, despite what crime dramas on TV would have us believe—and to get to the bottom of the mistaken identity is time that an innocent man spent in jail.
How does this keep happening to Guzman? Basically, when a thief takes over control of someone else’s identity, they can do pretty much whatever they please with it. One of the common ways that identity theft leads to criminal arrests of the victim is that a thief provides the victim’s identity at the time they are arrested or cited.
It plays out like this: an identity thief is apprehended for anything from a simple traffic stop to an actual crime. They provide your information, and claim to be you. In the case of a traffic stop, they just fail to pay the ticket and a bench warrant is then issued for your arrest. If the crime is more serious and he doesn’t appear in court on those charges, a different warrant is issued for not only the original crime but also for the failure to appear.
Again, despite what we see on TV, if the charge is not all that serious the police may not even make contact with you. They don’t bring a SWAT team and kick in your front door over an unpaid speeding ticket. Instead, they wait until the next time they run into you. As in Guzman’s second arrest six years after the original identity theft took place, he was pulled over for an expired license plate. When the officer ran his name, there was an old warrant for his arrest in the computer. What should have been a fine for not having his license plate renewed on time ended up being almost two weeks in jail while the authorities sorted it out. Of course, this is after he spent over two weeks in jail the first time he was wrongfully arrested.
What does this mean to you? First, if your identity was stolen, it’s important to get a police report, no matter what the circumstances. It’s sad that for many victims of ID theft the crime was committed by a relative, and no one enjoys the thought of filling out a police report on someone in the family, but it must be done to protect you from further nightmares down the road. A police report on the incident isn’t a get out of jail free card, but it will help a lot when trying to prove that your identity was used.
Should you ever find out there was a warrant issued for your identity, you must request copies of the original arrest report, and ask for copies of the suspect’s photograph from booking and fingerprints. This will also help clear your name faster since you’ll have the proof you need to show that you weren’t the person who was physically apprehended.
Finally, keep copies of these reports on file with your local police department and make them aware of the situation, especially since the warrant for your arrest won’t necessarily happen in your town. It will help if your local police department is able to back up your story to other departments should a warrant be issued for you.
If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center's Anyone3 fundraising campaign. For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3.