In Your Corner: Tracking An Identity Thief

By Ryan Elijah

September 30, 2011 Updated Sep 30, 2011 at 8:18 AM EDT

The phone call came on a Monday morning. Visa wanted to know if Shelly Speakman had purchased an $867 computer with her credit card, she hadn't, but someone had. Her account was frozen, causing checks to bounce. Shelly was able to get the entire amount and fees back from Visa, but she's troubled that someone is getting away with this.

"every step I hit, I'm to the point that nobody cares, yes, I got my money back, but how many is this effecting", said Speakman.

Shelly's persistence helped her obtain information showing the Lenovo Group shipped the computer to an apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, but when she called the police department in Virginia, she found she was on her own.

"the man said, Ma'am, this originated in your state, you take care of it", said Speakman.

We did our own investigation and within minutes we found the apartment complex and decided to call the number that Shelly provided. We were looking for a guy named "Charles", but got a woman instead.

We asked: "Is Charles There?" Unidentified Woman: "No, he's at work, you will need to call him later this afternoon". We asked how the new computer was doing and got nowhere. Not to our surprise, the phone went to a full voice mailbox the next several times we called on various days. We never did speak with Charles.

Detective Chris O'Conner works on financial and computer crimes for the Fort Wayne Police Department. They were not a part of this case, but the detective told us that Charles is possibly a "drop-shipper", meaning items are shipped to his address to be shipped to foreign countries where some companies won't ship.

In a stolen credit card case like Shelly's he says the jurisdiction usually falls where the card was used, because there's more proof, such as video surveillance and often it's where the suspect is. He gets many calls from other states, in fact he's worked on a major fraud case for well over a year in which several people have now been charged, but he says each department faces their own challenge.

"it depends on the level of expertise each department has on how to investigate. There are so many different police department's, not everybody investigates everything the way you'd like it to work. We get calls from other states and we try to see if we can locate the suspect and go from there", said Detective O'Conner.

It's estimated that identity theft cases like this cost the consumer $31-Billion dollars per year. The Fort Wayne police department has a white collar crime unit and they say they have become much more efficient as they try to deal with a problem that changes as quickly as the technology does. Next week's In Your Corner will take an in depth look at what consumers need to know to better protect themselves, including how to lock your credit and how to protect a credit card in your wallet from new technology used by thieves.

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