Local News

Personal Information Can Lead To Identity Theft

Posted April 12, 2002 10:15 a.m. EDT

— Officials say about 700,000 people in the United States had their identity stolen last year. Someone could be using your name, your credit card numbers and your bank account and you may not even know it.

Sharon Drake thought Jocelyn Catwell was her friend. They worked together at Catwell's non-profit organization Cassandra's House, so that is why Drake thought nothing of it when she asked Catwell to take her pocketbook to her mother's house while she was in the hospital last June.

"She did take it to my mother's house the next day, but she went through it and did what she needed to do," Drake said.

Three weeks later, the bills started coming in. Catwell had stolen her identity. Almost a year later, Drake is more than $70,000 in debt.

Detective Jennifer Kelly of the Fayetteville Police Department say fraud investigators see at least 12 identity theft cases a month and the victims range from the old to the young.

"College-age students need to be aware of keeping track of their IDs and checkbook while they're away from home," she said.

Drake has traced her information all the way to Palm Beach County, Fla. She has discovered Catwell has 12 different aliases and nine social security numbers belonging to people all across the country, four of whom are from Cumberland County.

Investigators say they believe Catwell is living in the Buffalo, N.Y. area.

"I hope that somebody will learn something from this experience, so they don't have to go through this because it's one of the most frustrating things I've ever had to endure," Drake said.

There are a number of ways that people can protect yourself.

  • Put passwords on all of your accounts something only you would know. Experts said not to use your mother's maiden name or your birth date.
  • Do not carry any extra identifiers. Empty your wallets of extra credit cards.
  • When you are finished with your credit card reciepts and bank statements, do not just throw them away. Shred them so your information cannot be traced.