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Raleigh Man Victimized by Identity Theft

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RALEIGH — Movies have been made and books written about people who have their identity stolen. Police say it is happening more often because we are identified by numbers.

Social Security cards, drivers licenses, bank accounts and credit cards; all are numbers tied to you, identifying you.

Imagine having your bank accounts cleaned out, someone else's picture on your drivers license, even a police record all because someone knows too much about you.

Peter Skerlj is a Canadian engineer working in Raleigh who knows all about this. His identity was stolen months ago; his life has been a jumble since. That is because police in the Triangle know another man as Peter Skerlj -- Charles LeGrand of Durham.

LeGrand turned himself in to police Wednesday and faces several charges of obtaining property under false pretense.

The nightmare for the real Peter Skerlj began months ago with the theft of his motorcycle. Several months later, his Durham bank account was cleaned out.

"There were two withdrawls made; one from my checking account, one from my savings account," says Skerlj. "Both emptied out my accounts to the penny."

Skerlj kept records of what was happening to him, including a bank notification that a car loan applied for at CarMax had been turned down.

The "other" Peter Skerlj, whom police believe to be LeGrand, also tried to buy a motorcycle in Raleigh. Perhaps the worst problem, notification that Skerlj was not showing up for community service.

"Community Service Works Program sent me a letter saying I'd been not putting in my hours on the sentence that was under my name," says Skerlj.

Skerlj had falsely been convicted of felony possession of a stolen vehicle.

Police say identities are being stolen more often.

"It is a serious situation when someone takes your identity, takes your social security number, takes your name and use that name to buy merchandise," says Sgt. Michael Hunter of the Raleigh Police Department.

Skerlj thinks the theft of his motorcycle lead to his problems.

"That's the only thing I could think of," he says. "Other than that, I have no idea how this person got information about me."

The lesson here is clear. Protect the numbers that identify you. Those numbers are required in business and personal affairs, but do all you can to prevent prying eyes from seeing them.

If personal information is stolen, take immediate measures to notify the proper authorities.

It is important to note that this case, according to police, did not involve theft of information on the Internet. The bank where Skerlj's account had been emptied has replaced his money.

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Tom Lawrence, Reporter
Rick Armstrong, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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