Local News

Identity Thieves Driving New Kind Of Crime

Posted October 12, 2004

— A new form of identity theft is hitting the Triangle.

Thieves are doing more than robbing bank accounts. They are driving off with big-ticket luxury vehicles worth more than $50,000.

At a Cary dealership last month, Cary police say a woman applied for a loan with another woman's credit, then drove a $58,000 Hummer off the lot.

"I have a victim in Maryland who received a phone call saying 'You're two months overdue on your Hummer payment.' She had never purchased a Hummer," said Det. Stephan Lampert of the Cary Police Department.

Lampert investigated and found a nearly identical case last November -- two Baltimore-area victims, two Hummers taken from the same Cary dealership and one woman suspected in both cases.

"I think there'll be more coming, if not in Cary, in surrounding dealerships, in surrounding cities," Lampert said.

Lampert said these criminals are so shifty that in some cases they make the first few payments on the vehicles so victims do not know they have been hit until it is too late. By the time they contact the police, the paper trail has gone cold.

Most of the high-dollar cars have a satellite tracking system called OnStar.

Lampert said the tracking system helped him find two cars last year, but now thieves know how to disable the device so it does not always work. He said the thieves usually drive off undetected, leaving a dealership short a big seller and a victim without their identity.

"It is big because it takes someone's ability to get credit later on. When someone's the victim of ID theft, it's almost like their credit is scarred for life," Lampert said.

To protect yourself, Lampert said call the credit bureaus and request that they call you every time someone applies for credit in your name.

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