The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book reveals that 29.4 percent of complaints filed with the online database in 2020 were related to identity theft. (That’s more than any other type of fraud reported.) Amongst the many types of identity theft fraud that exist, the government documents or benefits fraud category tops the list with 406,375 reports from citizens who said their information was misused to apply for a government document or benefit. (This includes documents like birth certificates, passports, driver’s licenses, or benefits such as unemployment insurance.)
The Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book also breaks down the category into subtypes and the percentage difference from 2019 including: driver’s license issued/forged (up 23%); government benefits applied for/received (up 2,920% — WOW!); other government documents issued/forged (up 42%); and, passport issued/forged (up 85%). So, what’s the bottom line here? (Sadly folks, it’s not good news.) This type of fraud is projected to continue to rise.
One example of government document fraud includes Orvil Perez-Jiminez, 34, of Dundalk Md.
Perez-Jiminez sold birth certificates, social security cards, and fake driver’s licenses to a couple living in Maryland without lawful status to live in the U.S. (He made $5,000 from that illegal transaction.) They used those identity documents to apply for U.S. passports, obtain employment eligibility verification with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, open financial accounts, and obtain Maryland driver’s licenses. His ruse was revealed when he informed an undercover social services agent that he could provide a Puerto Rican birth certificate, driver’s license, and a Social Security card. (After a $2,000 transaction occurred with the undercover agent, the gig was up.) Perez-Jiminez was sentenced to two years and four months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
Even more concerning is a Missouri mom who racked up $20,000 in loans after stealing her daughter’s identity to pose as a college student. (Wow. There is so much wrong with that on so many levels.) Laura Oglesby, 48, of Howell County, Mo., used her estranged daughter’s identity to incur student and other debt so she could return to college and live as a woman in her 20s. (Yeah, make sure you check out the photo in this story. She was in her 40s.) Oglesby used her daughter’s birth certificate to obtain a Social Security card and a Missouri driver’s license. She lived as her daughter for two years before investigators apprehended her. (They were looking for Mom because she disappeared under a full U.S. bench warrant for financial identity fraud. Perhaps that’s the reason she was estranged with her daughter. Just a guess!) Detectives caught up with her at a traffic stop while driving to work at the public library. The fraudster had gained around $17,000 in federal financial assistance. She is presently facing up to five years in prison and will have to pay $17,521 in restitution to the university and to her daughter.
While this all sounds very negative, there is some good news. There’s a lot you can do to protect your identity from being stolen. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) offers the opportunity to search across multiple data breaches to see if your phone number and email has been compromised. The website also gives some helpful tips that can help you protect your identity on physical documents, cards, devices, online, and on accounts with electronic access.
If you believe you have been a victim of an identity crime, report it to the Federal Trade Commission online at IdentityTheft.gov or by phone at 1-877-438-4338. You can also contact the ITRC at 1-888-400-5530. (Stay vigilant and buckle your seat belt. We’re in for a bumpy ride in 2022.)