Maximus wasn’t the first dog that Officer Barks had heard say “I swear it wasn’t me!”. However, in this case Maximus was telling the truth.

When our favorite pooch was pulled over for blowing through a sit sign, Officer Barks ran Max’s information through the system and found he had a warrant out for his arrest for failure to appear on a speeding ticket.  So off to the jailhouse Maximus went.  Even though Max didn’t do the crime, it seemed as though he was about to do the time. All the while, Billy the Chihuahua was living as though he was above the law, throwing out Max’s personal information every time he was cited.

While the only jail most dogs will ever see is the pound if they escape their yards, the same cannot be said for people.  You can imagine how terrifying it would be to be locked up in jail with no idea why you were there. It sounds like a bad dream, but it is a real life worry for victims of identity theft. It is called criminal identity theft and it occurs when an imposter provides law enforcement with another person’s name and personal information (such as a drivers’ license, date of birth, or Social Security Number) during an investigation or upon arrest, just like our fictitious Billy did to our make-believe Maximus.

The identity thief may even use counterfeit documents using another person’s data.  The imposter may fraudulently obtain a driver’s license or identification card in the victim’s name and provide that identification document to law enforcement.  Or, the imposter, without showing any photo identification, verbally provides the name and personal information of another individual.

In many cases, the imposter is cited for a traffic violation or for a misdemeanor violation.  The imposter signs the citation and promises to appear in court.  If the imposter does not appear in court, the magistrate may issue a bench warrant, but the warrant of arrest will be under the victim’s name.  The identity theft victim will probably not know there is a warrant of arrest issued under his or her name.  The victim may unexpectedly be detained pursuant to a routine traffic stop and then subsequently arrested because of the outstanding bench warrant.

If you think you may be a victim of criminal identity theft or want to know more about how you can protect yourself from identity theft, you can access the help of the Identity Theft Resource Center through our new mobile app.  Download the ITRC’s free ID Theft Help mobile app available on the iTunes Store for Apple devices here or Google Play for Android devices here to get helpful information on further protecting yourself.  You can even talk directly with a trained victim advisor free of charge right from the app through the LiveChat feature.  Becoming a victim of identity theft is scary, but you can protect yourself  with your identity theft help backup, the free ID Theft Help Mobile App from the ITRC.

This product was produced by Identity Theft Resource Center and supported by grant number 2014-XV-BX-K003, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.