April 27, 2007
HEPHZIBAH, Ga.---A Hephzibah woman had a criminal record for shoplifting...but it turns out someone else did the crime. Deputies say the real criminal stole her identity.
Investigators say this sort of thing happens a dozen times a month.
Criminals look for the red flag on your mailbox and go through your bills to find your social security number. Or they'll look through your car windows to try and steal your purse. And investigators say once they get that number, they can do almost anything.
A woman was arrested and gave her name as Lakeshia Neal. Trouble is, she wasn't Lakeshia Neal. Her name is really Felicia Nero.
News 12 talked to the real Lakeshia. Since the investigation is ongoing, she didn't want her face on camera.
"I was like, 'What if I get stopped and the officers think it's me and they take me to jail?'" she said.
Lakeshia only found out about the shoplifting charges under her name when she reported unauthorized charges to accounts she never opened.
Her car, with her social security card inside, was stolen. Later, a credit report showed she owed more than two thousand dollars on accounts she never opened.
Those kinds of charges can take at least a year to clear.
"It takes a lot of time and effort, and it's just very frustrating," said SRP president Ed Templeton.
And Inv. Anita Hopson says it isn't just credit cards. More often, thieves give a stolen social over the phone or over the net to utility companies.
"People need cable, they need power," she said. "Therefore, if their credit is bad, they use someone else's information."
She says companies run credit reports on that social, and they don't always realize the number doesn't match the name. She says it happens about 15 times a month.
"I was just...I can't believe she did this!" Lakeshia said. Now Lakeshia is left with Felicia Nero's charges, both financial and criminal.
Investigators say ID theft often happens among people who know each other, and sometimes the victims are even children.
Felicia Nero is still wanted and faces felony charges.
For more information on identity theft and tips on how to prevent it, click here.