Published: January 05, 2006 04:10 pm
Driven To Fraud
Homeland Security computer checks show trend in fraud
By JOHN L. GILKEY firstname.lastname@example.org
The numbers could be up for area thieves looking for a free ride to reside in Indiana.
A new computer-based system that checks the validity of information given when obtaining a drivers license is starting to identify people using stolen Social Security numbers, said Indiana State Police Sellersburg Post Public Information Officer Sgt. Jerry Goodin. The system went into operation last fall and has resulted in a number of arrests of people who are using invalid Social Security numbers.
Its becoming a problem, Goodin said. We are starting to detect a number of people who are using Social Security numbers of persons who are deceased, or whose identity has been stolen.
Goodin cited a recent case from Charlestown in which an illegal alien was arrested. Stealing a Social Security number is a Class D felony, Goodin said.
Master Trooper John Cleveland arrested the woman Dec. 20 when she turned up as using a stolen Social Security number while updating the address on her drivers license at the Sellersburg license branch.
The woman, Linda Sanches, 33, moved to Charlestown from Mexico City in 2001, and shortly thereafter obtained the Social Security number from a Mexican national who told her the number was clean.
She has been gainfully employed the entire time she has been here, Cleveland said.
She obtained a personal ID card from the license branch in 2002 and returned in 2004 to obtain a drivers license.
The new software program was phased in this past fall, and when the woman returned to update her drivers license information, the system identified her right away.
Were seeing a pretty good rash of these cases since they started using the new software, Cleveland said.
Goodin said the normal procedure is for an illegal immigrant to move into an area and contact someone who can supply identity information so that they can get a job and a drivers license.
In the past, it was hard to catch them. But now with the increased security measures that are in place with Homeland Security, theyre starting to show up.
Goodin said a recent traffic stop in Scott County involved a Hispanic male who was actually a United States Citizen, but who was using a stolen Social Security number.
Officers ran the mans date of birth and Social Security number and came back with 10 people using that information, he said.
Goodin and Cleveland said the state needs to put up signs at license branches to warn people that if they try to use a stolen identity they will be arrested.
Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Steve Stewart said it would be difficult to say how many arrests have been made because of the new program since they would be classified as identity-theft cases and could not readily be broken out from other cases.
Goodin says the identity-theft issue is a serious one for ISP in the Sellersburg District where there is a significant Latino population because so many Hispanics do not have a valid U.S. drivers license.
You can stop a Hispanic and check a drivers license, but they usually have a Mexican drivers license, he said. They generally say they are visiting the country, and theres no way to prove otherwise.
State law requires an Indiana drivers license if an individual is going to reside in the state longer than 31 days.
Even that is hard to establish, Goodin said. Unless you have stopped the same person more than 31 days apart, theres no telling how long they have been in the country.
Goodin says it will take a cooperative effort between local, state and federal agencies to resolve the problem, but he adds, The Homeland Security computer checks are starting to show some promise. Right now were reactive. We need to become proactive if we are ever going to resolve this problem.
Did you know
There were about 45,000 illegal aliens living in Indiana as of February 2003, more than three times the 1996 population, according to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
On the Web
For more in identity theft, visit the Indiana Attorney Generals Web site at: http://www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/consumer/prevention/identity_theft.html